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Newcastle owner bids for Umbro

Mike Ashley, the Owner of Newcastle United and Sports Direct has emerged as the frontrunner to buy Umbro, the football kit-maker put up for sale by Nike last week.

Despite the discount sportswear chain interest, private equity firms are also expected to enter the ring that the US sportswear giant bought for £285 million in 2008 look to sell.

Nike said last week that it wanted to offload Umbro to focus on its core brand.

Umbro are kit providers to Rangers and Manchester City, as well as the England and Ireland national teams.

Chief executive Mike Parker said selling the Umbro brand “will allow us to focus our resources on the highest-potential opportunities for Nike to continue to drive sustainable, profitable growth for shareholders”.

Sports Direct, which owned a 30 per cent stake in Umbro before its takeover, has reported strong sales growth for February and March and said Ashley was in line for a £23m shares bonus if he meets stretching earnings targets. Sales for the nine weeks to 25 March totalled £267.6m, an increase of 13.2 per cent over the same period in 2011.

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