Jobs and shops safe as sports retailer buys fashion chain

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The future of 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, together with Republic’s head office in Leeds, its websites and brands SoulCal, Fabric and Crafted.

Yesterday’s undisclosed deal came 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 went 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 about £300m, with the founders understood to have retained a significant stake.

Republic shops were mainly in the north – an area hit particularly badly by the recession.

The acquisition marks the latest deal for Sports Direct, which scooped up 20 shops and all the stock from one-time rival JJB Sports when that firm 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.