UK-based sportswear giant Sports Direct is the latest overseas retailer to enter the Australian market, following a deal with the parent company of online shopping club Ozsale.com.au.
The deal will see Ozsale operate an e-commerce platform for Sports Direct customers in Australia and New Zealand, with the websites set to launch and begin shipping goods later this year.
In addition to the online retail presence, Sports Direct is set to open three physical stores in Australia, along with a store in New Zealand, with an Ozsale outlet to be hosted in each of the stores.
Sports Direct says it is currently in discussions with a leading Australian retail partner over the physical retail launch.
As part of the deal, Sports Direct is set to take a 4.8% stake in Ozsale’s parent company, MySale Group.
The deal comes after Ozsale shelved plans for an IPO in March after appointing Macquarie to advise it on a potential listing. Since then, British billionaire Sir Philip Green has bought a 25% stake in the online shopping club.
The online deals site, which began in 2010, is currently estimated to be worth about $500 million and has an annual turnover of about $180 million.
In a statement, Sports Direct chief executive Dave Forsey cited Ozsale’s 12 million-strong user base as a key factor in the deal.
“It will be great to enter these markets, where sport is a way of life. I have been really impressed by the team at MySale and look forward to working with them,” said Forsey.
So with Sports Direct set to open locally, here are five things you might not know about the retailer and its charismatic founder:
1. Humble origins
The company was launched in 1982 by entrepreneur Mike Ashley, who dropped out of high school aged just 16. The chain began from a single store in Maidenhead, in south-east England, with the name Mike Ashley Sports.
2. Rapid growth
Since then, the chain has grown to be the UK’s largest sports retailer with 470 stores. It also already operates in 19 countries across Europe, including Ireland, Belgium, France, Portugal, Holland and Slovenia.
Sports Direct listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2007, with Ashley floating 43% of the company. The deal netted Ashley £929 million ($AUD1.59 billion), at a price of 300p per share. The company now makes up part of the FTSE 100 index.
4. Buying Newcastle United
In 2007, the long-term owner and chairman of Premier League club Newcastle United, Sir John Hall, decided to put his 41.6% stake in the club on the market. Cashed up from the IPO, Ashley bought the shares, paying £55,342,223.
5. Buying sports brands
In 2004 the company bought a range of brands including Dunlop, Slazenger and Carlton Dunlop Slazenger through its £40 million purchase of Dunlop Slazenger. In addition, the company purchased outdoor gear brand Karrimor in for a reported £5 million. It also purchased headwear company Kangol for an estimated £12 million.