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2,000 jobs saved as Sports Direct buys Republic

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THE future of Leeds-based high street fashion retailer Republic has been secured and 2,100 jobs saved after Sports Direct International bought the chain from administrators.

The Sports World group - founded by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley - snapped up 116 shops and stock, along with Republic’s head office in Leeds, its websites and brands SoulCal, Fabric and Crafted.

Today’s undisclosed deal comes after administrators Ernst & Young closed five Republic shops in Scotland on Tuesday, with the loss of 105 jobs, and axed another 150 jobs at its head office in Leeds.

Republic collapsed into administration earlier this month after being hit by sliding sales.

Administrator Hunter Kelly said: “In what has been a very challenging time and volatile climate for retailers, it is particularly pleasing to have completed the successful sale of Republic, saving 2,100 jobs across the UK high street and at its Leeds-based headquarters.

He said: “The brand Republic is well-recognised and well-respected by customers for offering quality, high-fashion goods and it is a testament to its strength that Sports Direct has made this investment to secure its future and high street presence.”

Republic, which targets the competitive youth fashion market, also sells brands including Jack Jones, Diesel and Firetrap.

It was bought by private equity firm TPG in June 2010 in a deal worth around £300 million, with the founders understood to have retained a significant stake.

Republic’s focus in the north of England - an area that has been hit particularly badly by the recession - is thought to have contributed to recent poor trading.

It marks the latest deal for Sports Direct, which scooped up 20 shops and all the stock from one-time rival JJB Sports when it went into administration last year.

Sports Direct, which now has almost 400 UK shops, also owns Lillywhites stores, as well as brands including Slazenger, Dunlop and Lonsdale.

The deal comes after a weak start to the year for the retail sector, with a series of high-profile firms having hit the wall.

Thousands of jobs have been axed after music retailer HMV, camera group Jessops and DVD and games rental group Blockbuster called in administrators last month.

 

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