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Stores saved as Champion taken over

LEADING chain store Champion Sports has been bought by the UK operator JD Sports Fashion for a token sum.

It plans to retain all the 22 existing Champion Sports outlets, which employ 600 people.

Champion Sports was owned by a consortium of high-profile business people including embattled developer Bernard McNamara and financier Bernard Somers.

JD Sports has agreed to repay Champion Sports' outstanding loan of €17.1m to Anglo Irish Bank and stump up an additional €2.5m to settle outstanding Champion Sports lease commitments.

Champion Sports, which was founded in 1992, was acquired at the peak of the boom by a consortium called PCP One. Its backers included developer Bernard McNamara, and developer Joe O'Reilly -- whose Castlethorn Construction firm is one of the most indebted companies in NAMA.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, JD Sports financial director Brian Small said that the company believed Champion Sports presented a good opportunity, despite racking up an operating loss of €1.8m and a pre-tax loss of €4.9m in 2009.

"We believe it is fundamentally a good business," he said.

Irish Independent