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The road to Wigan’s clear for Whelan as he sells shares

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29/01/2007

The founder of JJB Sports, David Whelan, has raised £50m of his UK investment in the sports store chain through the sale of an 8.6% stake of his own shareholding.

Whelan told media contacts that he had sold the 20.5 million shares for “personal reasons”, provoking speculation that he was raising cash to buy players for Wigan Athletic football club, a business that he has owned since 1995 and that is currently struggling near the foot of the Premiership table.

City analysts have pointed out that Whelan has taken advantage of JJB’s currently high share price to make the maximum return on his UK investment in the country.

The store – founded in 1971 – has outperformed the UK retail sector by 30% over the past year and analysts are wondering whether the move is a prelude to outside buyers making a bid for the company. The 8.6% stake Whelan has just sold leaves the family with a 29% holding of UK investment in JJB Sports.

“Quite apart from the business angle, Whelan is a strong football fan and puts his heart and soul into Wigan,” said football analyst David Boulden. “The money and his UK investment are important, of course, but it’s a close run thing between his passion and his cash.”

 

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