One More Thing: UK billionaire has his eye on Irish retail

 Mike Ashley: had his eye on taking a run at the Irish market for quite a while.

Mike Ashley: had his eye on taking a run at the Irish market for quite a while.

Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 01:10

It seems billionaire Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, whose company is currently in the running to buy Elverys out of examinership, has secretly had his eye on taking a run at the Irish market for quite a while.

Sports Direct, the UK-listed, stack-’em-high retailer controlled by Ashley, already owns a 50 per cent stake in Heatons, the Irish department store chain.

It has emerged that Sportsdirect.com Retail, a division of Ashley’s company, is in the process of taking legal action against Heatons. Ashley’s company is suing the Irish operation it half owns on competition grounds.

Sports Direct did not make any comment. It is understood, however, that the dispute revolves around the application of non compete agreements that were allegedly agreed between Sports Direct and Heatons.

The case was filed with the High Court in November 2012, which would indicate that Sports Direct has been contemplating entering the Irish market on a stand-alone basis for well over a year.
Interesting sideshow
The case is listed next month for a four-day hearing in the High Court. It should provide an interesting sideshow to the ongoing Elverys examinership, where Sports Direct is tipped to be limbering up for a joint bid with Lifestyle Sports.

Elverys management, led by chief executive Patrick Rowland, will feel it is not out of the running yet to buy the company.

But Ashley is apparently a very determined man, as his business partners at Heatons found out the day Sports Direct issued it with a High Court writ.

* This article was amended on Friday, February 14th 2014, to delete a reference to Karen Hegarty Rowland, the wife of Patrick Rowland. The article said, in error, that Ms Hegarty Rowland is a sister of the Staunton brothers who founded Elverys. The error is regretted.

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