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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 11:40 GMT
JJB founder sells 50m of shares
JJB Stores
JJB Sports has more than 430 shops in the UK
JJB Sports founder David Whelan has raised 50m through the sale of an 8.6% stake in the sportswear retailer.

Mr Whelan said he had sold 20.5 million shares for personal reasons, leading to speculation that he will buy players for his football club Wigan Athletic.

Playing in their second season in the Premier League, Wigan have currently lost seven league games in succession.

Mr Whelan founded JJB Sports in 1971 and it now has more than 430 shops. He bought Wigan Athletic in 1995.

The sale of an 8.6% stake in JJB Sports reduces Mr Whelan and his family's holding to around 29%.

Bid speculation

Analysts said Mr Whelan had taken advantage of JJB's high share price, which has outperformed the UK retail sector average by 30% over the past 12 months.

JJB Sports owner David Whelan
Mr Whelan founded JJB Sports in 1971

The firm's shares have risen strongly over the past year, due to its revenue growth, but also rumours that it could be a bid target for unnamed suitors.

Analysts were unsure whether Mr Whelan's sale makes a possible bid more or less likely, but he has pledged not to sell any more shares in the business for at least 12 months.

"The speculation would be that Wigan is getting near to the relegation zone and has had difficulty getting their hands on new players and this would give him more firepower to pay big bucks," said one analyst, who declined to be named.

JJB's shares were down 4.4% to 246.75p in Friday trading.

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