Blacks buyout plans collapsed

Tom Knight, chief executive of the UK sports and leisure retailer, yesterday scrapped plans for an MBO.

The MBO bid for Blacks Leisure Group led by CEO Tom Knight, collapsed on Thursday. The company is thought to be attracting trade offers from rival firm JJB Sports.

Knight will remain at the helm of Blacks' sport and fashion division, which he runs as a managing director. Simon Bentley will resign as chairman on June first and assume the role of chief executive. David Bernstein, who currently sits on the group's supervisory board, will beccome non-executive chairman.

Blacks shares dropped sharply after the announcement was made yesterday, wiping out previous gains which had been driven by investor hopes that a buyout would take place.

Shares had risen two days running on speculation instead that Blacks has rejected a formal offer of 300p a share from rival JJB Sports. Over the two days, shares gained 12.5p to 173.5p.

However, the stock never got close to its January level of about 230p. Black’s market fortunes fell after the company released a profit warning on the back of poor Christmas sales.

There was speculation that the MBO team was having difficulty raising finance partly because of the effect foot and mouth disease is having on demand for camping goods. The team was expected to table a bid of about 250p a share.

Knight is being advised by KPMG. Blacks Leisure owns Blacks Outdoor, First Sport and Millets. It is worth about £69m.