JD Sports has “totally refuted” claims that the company breached corporate governance rules after its executive chairman Peter Cowgill was filmed meeting Footasylum boss Barry Bown in a car park.
The Sunday Times published footage of the meeting and reported that the competition regulator is planning an investigation into the potential breach.
The sportswear giant criticised the “highly irregular and potentially illegal covert surveillance” of Cowgill and both firms have denied any wrongdoing.
The move comes after JD Sports was ordered to sell Footasylum, which it purchased in 2019, after a ruling by the competition watchdog warned the £90 million merger deal could lead to a “worse deal” for customers.
“Peter Cowgill has known Barry Bown on a business and personal basis for over 25 years,” JD Sports said in a statement issued to the London Stock Exchange.
“As a result, it is not unusual, or in any way suspicious or illegitimate, for them to meet from time to time, including in relation to the ongoing review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) of JD’s acquisition of Footasylum.
“The Sunday Times omitted to report on the positive obligation that JD has under the terms of the Interim Enforcement Order to take all reasonable steps to encourage key staff of the Footasylum business (which includes Barry Bown) to remain with the business.
“The CMA has already been fully apprised of the content of the meeting on 5th July 2021 and the reasons for it and JD firmly believes that its actions in participating in this meeting do not amount to wrongdoing or a breach of the order and does not see how it would be reasonable to accuse JD of such.
“It is disappointing that the Sunday Times has not reported in a more balanced way on the highly irregular and potentially illegal covert surveillance undertaken by a third party for their own interests.
“JD hopes that a regulator, tasked with acting in the wider public interest, is able to more critically regard the actions of the third party for what they are.
“Any suggestions with regard to corporate governance breaches are totally refuted.”