JD Sports and Footasylum fined £4.7m for secret meetings | Economic news

JD Sports and Footasylum, two of the UK’s biggest sportswear retailers, have been fined £4.7million for inappropriately discussing a merger when they were told ordered not to.

The order, from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), prohibited the two high street giants from exchanging commercially sensitive information while the pair tried to merge.

But instead of ceasing to communicate, the bosses of JD Sports and Footasylum were filmed secretly meeting in a car park in July 2021, prompting an investigation by the competition watchdog.

The CMA said in a statement on Monday that its investigation found there was a “black hole regarding meetings held between Footasylum and JD Sports.”

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Peter Cowgill admitted JD Sports received commercially sensitive information

“Both CEOs cannot recall crucial details of these meetings…no notes, no agendas, no emails and bad phone records, some of which have been deleted,” the regulator added. .

The CMA order had specifically required the two companies to put in place safeguards to prevent this type of information sharing during merger talks. The merger was ultimately rejected by the CMA anti-competitive concerns.

Failure to provide these safeguards or cooperate with the subsequent AMC investigation “has compromised our ability to maintain the benefits of a competitive marketplace for buyers and ensure a level playing field for other businesses,” it said. said Kip Meek, chairman of the investigative group. investigating the merger.

He added: “This fine should serve as a warning – if you break the rules there will be serious consequences.”

JD Sports boss Peter Cowgill said the company acknowledged receiving commercially sensitive information that was not immediately reported to the AMC.

“However, JD believes that a number of the other conclusions reached by the CMA are either incorrect or misrepresented through the use of inflammatory language,” Mr. Cowgill said.

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