Dave Whelan, founder and chairman of JJB Sports, Britain's biggest sports shop chain, and a large retailer of bicycles, told The Financial Times he has yet to decide on whether to take the group private and buy out non-family shareholders.

JJB had ‘flat’ sales of bikes at Xmas…and the plc may go private

"I’ve had meetings with five or six parties including NM Rothschild. I listen, but have not had an attractive proposal yet. Nothing’s been decided – I haven’t even spoken to the board," Whelan told The FT.

Whelan and his family own 39 percent of the shares in JJB, a £360m company.

The greatest advantage to taking it private would be "to avoid inheritance tax", said Whelan.

Earlier this month, JJB Sports plc released details of its trading performance over the Christmas and New Year period.

Total turnover for the 6 weeks ended 6 January 2002 was 7 percent higher than the equivalent period last year, which included an increase in like-for-like turnover of 3.5 per cent. For the 49 weeks ended 6 January 2002, total turnover was 11 per cent higher than the same period last year. This included a like-for-like increase of 7 per cent. All major categories of merchandise showed significant increases in turnover during the 49 week period, when compared to the same period last year with the exception of winter jackets, and sales of bicycles, which were flat when compared to last year, said JJB’s statement.

Since its half year end in July 2001, JJB has opened 19 superstores and closed 15 smaller high street stores, continuing the company’s strategy of relocation to larger properties. Included in these figures is JJB’s first Dutch superstore, opened in Rotterdam in November 2001 and superstores in St Helens and Middlesborough which are situated above newly established health clubs.

JJB operates from 436 stores, comprising 72 high street superstores, 178 out-of-town superstores, 181 smaller high street stores and 5 golf stores.

24 new superstores are planned for opening this year.

Building work on s new distribution centre at Martland Park, Wigan is now complete and JJB intends that the site will become fully operational in February.

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