JD Sports rescues rugby shirts company

Sportswear firm JD Sports Fashion today announced it had rescued the European arm of rugby shirts firm Canterbury, raising hopes that it will resurrect some of the firm’s sponsorship deals.

Sportswear firm JD Sports Fashion today announced it had rescued the European arm of rugby shirts firm Canterbury, raising hopes that it will resurrect some of the firm’s sponsorship deals.

JD bought the trade and assets of the division, based in Stockport, Cheshire in England, for an undisclosed sum in a deal that it is hoped will secure 50 jobs.

The firm is also buying the global Canterbury brand for £6.5m (€7.7m).

Before falling into administration last month, Canterbury Europe sponsored a number of rugby union and rugby league teams in the UK and Europe, including the Scottish national team, as well as Leinster, London Wasps and Cardiff.

It also had agreements in place with Portsmouth Football Club, Lille and Yorkshire and Hampshire Cricket Clubs after expanding into others sports including football, cricket and golf.

A spokeswoman for administrators KPMG said it believed JD had plans to renew some of its sponsorships, but it was not known which deals would be affected.

When the European arm fell into administration 72 of its 86 workers were made redundant, but it is thought that some former staff could be re-employed by the new firm.

Canterbury Europe collapsed after an unsuccessful expansion push was followed by difficult trading and the weakness of the pound – it imports most of its good from the Far East.

KPMG said the deal for the global brand – which was not in administration - would ensure the name remained in the UK and Europe while also safeguarding the future of the Canterbury business in Australia and New Zealand.

The Canterbury brand was established in New Zealand over 100 years ago. It is chiefly recognised as a rugby brand and is the current shirt sponsor of the international rugby union teams of South Africa and Australia.

Canterbury’s Australian and New Zealand businesses will be acquired by a third party for an undisclosed sum, with the brand licensed from JD.

JD executive chairman Peter Cowgill said: “We are delighted with the acquisition of the Canterbury brand, which will further diversify the group’s overall interests in the sports and related leisurewear markets.”

JD now owns two rugby brand businesses after it bought another wholesaler, Kooga Rugby, last month.

The firm said it believes the acquisitions will end up profitable and that it expects the global intellectual property rights will generate royalty income.

Christian Mayo, corporate finance partner at KPMG, said: “The administration, coupled with complex inter-relationships between various operations in different parts of the world, made finding a buyer and structuring a successful deal a real challenge.

“However, we’re delighted that the brand is now in the hands of a company who will be able to take it forward both in the UK and overseas.”

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