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Published
May 10, 2021
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JD Sports buys Oi Polloi, speculation that Cowgill to step down as JD CEO

Published
May 10, 2021

Retail giant JD sports has been on the acquisition trail again with news that it's bought cult clothing retailer Oi Polloi. It didn't release the news formally but a Companies House filing shows that it bought the Manchester-based business and that JD Sports CEO Peter Cowgill is now a director of the business.


Oi Polloi


The purchase was first reported by The Business desk.

The upscale indie menswear firm was founded over two decades ago by Steve Sanderson and Nigel Lawson, who are no longer involved. It sells its own label plus a wide variety of brands, including including Beams Plus, APC, Berghaus, Converse, Levi’s, Superga, Stone Island, Polo Ralph Lauren, Keen and Patagonia.

It’s a relatively ‘small’ purchase for JD Sports, which has more than 2,400 stores globally and has made headlines with bigger acquisitions such as US firms Finish Line, DTLR and Shoe Palace. 

But it has also acquired a number of smaller businesses, such as Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green brand that had gone into administration. It has a big acquisition war chest after raising more than £460 million through a share placing earlier this year. And the company, in which Pentland holds a 55% stake, has actually agreed more than £1 billion worth of acquisitions since last December alone.

At the time of the equity placing, it said it saw a number of “potentially attractive acquisition opportunities” that could support its “successful global expansion strategy”.

The news about the Oi Polloi buy came as speculation is growing that Peter Cowgill, who has driven JD to become a global giant, is thinking about stepping down from day-to-day control of the firm.

As well as being CEO, he’s also executive chairman, but The Sunday Times reported that the 68-year-old could be preparing to loosen his control. It said the plan could be that a new CEO is appointed to work with him and that he could then become non-executive chairman.

But while one source said this could happen in 2021, Cowgill himself has denied such speculation. “I am not going anywhere fast. I’m a substantial shareholder and I have every intention of ensuring the long-term success of this business. It’s in a great place and there is plenty to go for,” he said.

Cowgill became executive chairman of the company 17 years ago, back when it was only borderline profitable. He’d actually begun his links with the firm as far back as 1981 when his accountancy practice worked for it under its original name of Mossley Sports.

He became JD’s CFO around the time it first floated ion the stock exchange in 1996 but left four years later. He returned to the troubled firm in 2004 as boss, and drove sales 13 times higher in the subsequent 17 years, while profits have multiplied much, much faster.

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