Sports Direct International (SDI), which reportedly studied a bid to take over nearly 200 Sports Authority store leases in conjunction with Modell's, has failed to make an offer for this big chunk of the bankrupt U.S. retailer's leases – and it was outbid by Dick's Sporting Goods for the acquisition of Sports Authority's brand name and other intellectual property at auction.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Dick's purchased the name and other assets with a bid worth $15 million, which was above an offer of $13 million from SDI. The intellectual property targeted by Dick's apparently includes the Sports Authority's online store and a loyalty program with 28.5 million customers. Dick's made an offer for 31 Sports Authority store leases for an extra $8 million at the auction, the report added. Other store leases of the Sports Authority, which once had more than 460 stores, were acquired at the auction, but the identity of the buyers is unclear.
Separately, it appears that SDI was also outbid for the acquisition of the Irish arm of Debenhams, the British department store chain. SDI has a minority stake of 10.5 percent in the Debenhams group and it has partnered with the retailer to set up dedicated SDI space in the stores. However, the Irish Independent reports that Debenhams itself is the preferred bidder for the chain's Irish arm. Debenhams' eleven stores in the Republic of Ireland were put into examinership, a form of bankruptcy, in May. SDI reinforced its presence in Ireland last year by acquiring the second half of Heatons, with more than 40 stores in the Republic of Ireland and another 15 in Northern Ireland, selling a variety of textile and home appliance products.
And then there is Findel, the British company that has fought off attempts by SDI to install a manager on its board after it raised its stake to 29.79 percent in March – just below the level at which it would have to make a takeover bid. Findel's board has apparently changed its mind, since it reported that it was in the early stages of discussions with SDI about a potential commercial supply arrangement and Ashley's appointment as chairman on Findel's board.
The potential commercial supply arrangement relates to Express Gifts, an online retailer. Findel was previously the owner of Kitbag, an online retailer specializing in team sports products that was thought to be SDI's primary target when it started amassing shares in Findel last year, but Kitbag was eventually sold to Fanatics.
Findel said that the proposal to appoint Ashley as chairman was made by Schroders on behalf of SDI. Ashley would replace David Sugden, who has previously announced his intention to step down at the forthcoming general assembly. Toscafund has also indicated its support for Ashley's appointment, Findel adds. The board itself now reckons there is “great merit” in exploring a commercial supply arrangement with SDI and that Ashley would make a valuable contribution to the board but it has not concluded whether he should be chairman. Findel shares increased by 12.5 percent on the day of the announcement.
The proposed appointments mark an about-face since Toscafund and Schroders, which are both sizeable shareholders at Findel, voted against the appointment of an SDI representative on the Findel board. The board itself was quite virulent in its opposition to the previous proposed SDI appointment.
Findel points out that minority shareholders would have to be protected and Ashley would have to be approved by the Financial Conduct Authority. In fact the appointment is not unlikely to draw ire from minority shareholders, who could interpret the potential appointment as a move by Ashley to reinforce his influence over Findel without acquiring it.
SDI added this week when reporting its performance for the current fiscal year that its board remained committed to its organic and inorganic growth strategy, and that it will “maintain an appetite” for strategic opportunities. A few weeks ago SDI was among the parties that worked on the potential acquisition of assets from BHS, a British retailer specializing in textiles and home appliances.