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JD Sports boss Cowgill steps down after 18 years in charge

Peter Cowgill has been in charge of JD since 2004 (Aaron Chown/PA)
Peter Cowgill has been in charge of JD since 2004 (Aaron Chown/PA)

The long-term boss of JD Sports whose company was recently fined for sharing commercially sensitive information has stepped down.

Peter Cowgill resigned from his position as executive chairman after 18 years in the role, the company said on Wednesday.

In February, JD Sports was fined £4.3 million by the competition watchdog for exchanging information with Footasylum, which it had agreed to buy at the time for £90 million.

The deal had been blocked by the Competition and Markets Authority a few months earlier but not before Mr Cowgill had met his opposite number at Footasylum in a Bury car park, according to video seen by the Sunday Times.

The CMA said that there was a “black hole” surrounding two meetings between the men, adding that neither could remember “crucial details” and there were no notes, agendas or emails that could be handed to the authority.

The companies had agreed to merge in March 2019 but the watchdog was deciding whether to let the deal go ahead amid fears that it could harm competition.

During the investigation, JD had been banned from integrating Footasylum into its business or preventing any competition between the companies.

The CMA said that this order had been breached, listing a number of reasons including the meeting. It also fined Footasylum.

On Wednesday, JD said that Mr Cowgill was stepping down after a review of its internal governance and controls. The company said it had “decided to accelerate the separation of the roles of chair and chief executive officer”.

The company had already been looking for a new chief executive and board member Kath Smith, who worked for Adidas and Reebok in the past, will take over in the meantime.

It will also kick off a hunt for a chair, with fellow board member Helen Ashton taking the role in the meantime. She has previously worked for Asos, Lloyds Bank and Barclays.

Ms Ashton said: “The business has developed strongly under Peter’s leadership into a world-leading multi-channel retailer with a proven strategy and clear momentum.

“However, as our business has become bigger and more complex, what is clear is that our internal infrastructure, governance and controls have not developed at the same pace.

“As we capitalise on the great opportunities ahead of us, the board is committed to ensuring that we have the highest standards of corporate governance and controls appropriate to a FTSE 100 company to support future growth.”

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