Mike Ashley, owner of retailer Sports Direct, is trying to scupper the sale of rival JJB’s gym-chain division – a move that could tip ailing JJB into administration in days, threatening 11,800 jobs.

If the £70m deal is not completed this week, JJB will not be able to pay its landlords their quarterly rents, due on Wednesday. If JJB goes under it would be the most high-profile retail collapse since Woolworths closed down last year.

Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United, has written to JJB’s landlords urging them not to deal with his old adversary, Dave Whelan – owner of rival Wigan Athletic football club, who is in exclusive talks to buy the gyms, and the sports shops that come with them.

Sunday Times