BOLTON’S business economy was dealt a blow last night as sports giant Reebok announced plans to pull out of the town.

The company, which has its headquarters at the Reebok Stadium, is considering proposals to end its 116-year history in Bolton.

If the move goes ahead some of the 160-strong workforce will be made redundant, while others face relocation.

However the company, founded in 1895, will maintain its sponsorship deal with Bolton Wanderers and the Reebok Stadium.

A spokesman for parent group, adidas, said: “It is a proposal at this stage, but it is our intention to relocate the offices based at the Reebok Stadium to adidas offices in Stockport, with some workers being offered a transfer to the global group HQ in Canton, near Boston, Massachusetts.”

He added that redundancies would be inevitable as part of the move, but said the company could not speculate about how many staff would be affected.

Reebok leases 42,000 sq ft of space over three floors situated in the Reebok Stadium’s north stand from which it runs its marketing, sales and product departments. As recently as 2006 it moved staff to Bolton from Lancaster.

The proposal was announced yesterday morning when Adidas European managing director Nigel Griffiths, accompanied by other senior directors, one of whom flew in from America, gathered staff together to make the formal announcement. If the move is rubber stamped, it will take place before the end of the year.

Reebok wants to relocate sales and marketing staff responsible for the UK and Ireland to offices in Stockport, and the product development team to the USA.

The global economic turndown is understood to be part of the reason for the relocation proposals, but the group said it was also undergoing a Europe-wide restructuring programme.

Adidas took over Reebok in 2006 but kept both names as two separate brands. The company spokesman said: “The idea is to get the staff working together at the same locations but keep the separate brands.

“One of the reasons is that we need to make sure that, over the long term, the Reebok name is taken forward in a very strong way.

“The plan is currently in the consultation process and we will be holding one-to-one interviews with all staff.

“This has not been an easy decision, but we are handling it in the best way we can.”

President and chief executive of Reebok International Ulrich Becker said: “We hope to assist as many employees as possible in obtaining new positions within the Adidas Group.

“These actions will help to not only make Reebok a more flexible, efficient organisation but also ensure there is a strong foundation upon which it can grow and once again succeed. We would like to publicly thank our employees for their continued dedication and support during this challenging period.”

A spokesman for Bolton Wanderers' stadium facilities department, which handles leases, said: “We have a long term lease agreement with Reebok which runs over several years and it’s up to them to come to us and negotiate with us regarding their plans.”