JD Sports responds to press report over Footasylum meeting
JD Sports issued a stock exchange statement on Monday after a weekend report said that its executive chairman Peter Cowgill had held meetings with his opposite number Barry Bown at Footasylum, possibly breaching competition rules.
JD bought Footasylum some time ago but the deal has been the subject of a prolonged competition probe and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has told JD that it should sell Footasylum.
The Sunday Times had reported the meeting that was filmed by a third party and JD is now trying to find the source of that film.
The company said that “for the sake of balance”, it’s important to note that Cowgill has known Barry Bown “on a business and personal basis for over 25 years. As a result, it is not unusual, or in any way suspicious or illegitimate, for them to meet from time to time, including in relation to the ongoing review by the Competition and Markets Authority of JD's acquisition of Footasylum.
“The Sunday Times omitted to report on the positive obligation that JD has under the terms of the Interim Enforcement Order to take all reasonable steps to encourage key staff of the Footasylum business (which includes Barry Bown) to remain with the business”.
And it added CMA “has already been fully apprised of the content of the meeting” on July 5, “and the reasons for it and JD firmly believes that its actions in participating in this meeting do not amount to wrongdoing or a breach of the Order and does not see how it would be reasonable to accuse JD of such”.
It also criticised the Sunday Times for not reporting “in a more balanced way on the highly irregular and potentially illegal covert surveillance undertaken by a third party for their own interests”.
And as for the investigation into who filmed the meeting, The Times reported that the company believes it was “filmed by a competitor keen to see JD’s £90 million takeover of its smaller rival blocked”.
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