Published: Sat, December 31, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Sports Direct sells Dunlop brand to Japan's Sumitomo

Sports Direct sells Dunlop brand to Japan's Sumitomo

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct has sold sportswear brand Dunlop to Japanese group Sumitomo Rubber Industries saying it plans to focus on its core United Kingdom business.

It said the senior management team didn't have the "bandwidth" to both develop and manage global labels such as Dunlop, which makes equipment for golf, tennis, squash and badminton.

As part of the deal, Sumitomo will grant Sports Direct a royalty free licence to continue to use the Dunlop brand for workwear and safety wear for Sports Direct's own retail purposes. Its gear has been used by sporting figures including tennis champions Rod Laver, John McEnroe and Steffi Graf, as well as golfers such as the 2011 British Open victor Darren Clarke and the former world number one Lee Westwood.

Sports Direct has suffered this past year, with a 50 % drop for both its profit and its share price.

"Sports Direct's senior management team now needs to prioritise the core United Kingdom businesses and relationships with third party brands and does not now have the bandwidth to develop and manage worldwide brands simultaneously".

Earlier this month the company revealed pre-tax profit had fallen by 57 per cent to £71.6m in first half of the year.

Sumitomo Rubber Industries, originally called the Dunlop Rubber Company, has a tyre business as well as a sports division that makes tennis and golf equipment. A scathing parliamentary committee report later compared conditions at its Shirebrook warehouse to a Victorian workhouse.

According to the Financial Times, some of Sports Direct's more upmarket suppliers, which could include Nike and Adidas, are concerned that their products are being sold alongside goods from "lower quality" brands like Dunlop, Slazenger, Everlast and Lonsdale.

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