March 31, 2023

JD Sports is paying former boss Peter Cowgill £5.5m over three years, a year’s salary of more than £906,000 and a potential bonus of up to £450,000, under a deal to prevent him from setting up a rival retailer.

Under the agreement, Cowgill cannot work for or advise any competitor of JD Sports or hire any of the group’s employees for two years.

In addition, he agreed to advise its new chair, Andy Higginson, and chief executive, Regis Schultz, for a “prospective period” of three years.

The sports and leisurewear retailer said Higginson and Schultz will receive continued support and assistance from Cowgill, “as they transition into their new roles”.

Higginson said: “I am delighted that we have been able to continue on this friendly and constructive path for Peter’s next three years. Peter has very valuable experience built up over 18 years, which we do not want to lose, and both Regis and I are delighted to benefit from his considerable talent and advice.

“What it concludes, by any measure, has been an extraordinary period of executive leadership from Peter who has been a key part of the business’s incredible success story to date.

“Having now separated the roles of chair and chief executive, appointed a new chief executive who brings a strong international and digital track record, as well as locking in Peter’s knowledge and experience, JD is well positioned for continued commercial times underpinned by strong corporate governance and outperformance. .”

The multimillion-pound golden farewell is JD’s latest payout for Cowgill, who has already cashed in £50m of shares in the company over the past two years.

The 69-year-old resigned unexpectedly on May 25, just months after the competition regulator fined the retailer more than £4m for secret meetings with the boss of its takeover target FootAsylum.

JD Sports also suffered a shareholder revolt over pay last year when it was revealed that Cowgill was paid almost £6m in bonuses despite the company receiving more than £100m in government aid.

Earlier, the company abandoned a bid for department store chain Debenhams, but only after millions of pounds were wiped off the value of the sports retailer when details of the potential deal were revealed. Just a few months ago, JD Sports controversially put the Go Outdoors subsidiary into administration, then bought it back with a costly lease.

Cowgill has led the group as its outspoken chair since 2004, becoming its chief executive in 2014. It is understood he left after trying to split the two roles and thwart the board’s efforts to bring in young blood.

His departure was a major blow to the company, where he had overseen a turnaround in fortunes since returning as chair three years after stepping down as finance director in 2001.

Under his watch, the group expanded internationally, built a successful online business and joined the FTSE 100 after acquiring a portfolio of brands including Sprinter, Go Outdoors and Fishing Republic.

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