JD Sports Fashion weighs bid to swallow online retailer Missguided

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JD Sports Fashion is weighing an investment in MIssguided, the online women's fashion sensation, that could involve an outright takeover of the business.

Sky News has learnt that JD Sports is among a number of parties in discussions with Missguided's founder Nitin Passi and the company's advisers.

City sources said that the talks between the online retailer and its suitors were not yet on the brink of a conclusion, and that different structures were being evaluated by the fashion site.

JD Sports' proposal is said to involve the acquisition of a controlling interest in Missguided, although it was unclear on Wednesday whether Mr Passi was keen on a majority stake sale.

Missguided, which is being advised by bankers at Rothschild, is also understood to be talking to a small number of other prospective investors.

Any deal is expected to involve the injection of many tens of millions of pounds into Mr Passi's company.

Missguided was founded by Mr Passi in 2009 when he was just 26, and has grown into one of Britain's biggest online-led fashion retailers, competing with the likes of ASOS and Boohoo.

Its journey has not been without serious difficulties, including in 2017 when one of its Leicester-based suppliers was accused after an undercover investigation of paying workers less than the minimum wage.

In 2019, it faced scrutiny over the sale of a £1 bikini, but responded by saying that the clothing item had "cost us more to produce than £1 and we're absorbing the costs so we can offer it at an incredible price as a gift to our customers.

"It is sourced to the same high standards as all of our other products."

Missguided did open a handful of physical stores, including one at London's Westfield shopping centre, but decided to close them after deciding that their operating losses were too large to justify.

In April, Mr Passi told The Mail On Sunday: "We can still grow this business as we are but we want to grow the business more aggressively.

"This is not for me to take money off the table, we want to put money into the business."

Mr Passi's fortune was estimated at £250m in the 2018 edition of The Sunday Times Rich List, although he did not feature in the most recent list.

A formal bid from JD Sports would, if it materialised, reflect the FTSE-100 company's growing diversification into broader fashion.

It explored takeovers of both TopShop and Debenhams as they faced collapse last year, while it has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on buying retailers in Europe and North America.

JD Sports declined to comment, while Missguided did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

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