Mike Ashley accused of reneging on £15m deal he made in pub
Court hears Sports Direct boss described as a ‘power-drinking, money-making machine’
Mike Ashley, billionaire and founder of Sports Direct International Plc: court hears Ashley reneged on a £15m promise to an investment banker. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Investment banker Jeffrey Blue says Mr Ashley promised to pay him £15 million if he used his expertise to double Sports Direct’s share price to £8 a share, during an evening at a London pub four years ago.
He says Mr Ashley paid only £1 million and he wants £14 million damages.
Mr Ashley denies the claim and says Mr Blue is talking “nonsense”.
The two men are fighting at a High Court trial in London.
A judge began overseeing the trial last week and had heard from Mr Blue and Mr Ashley. Lawyers are outlining closing legal arguments to Mr Justice Leggatt.
The judge is expected to deliver a ruling later in the year. A barrister representing Mr Blue on Wednesday told the judge that Mr Ashley had “reneged”.
“Mr Blue has seen Mr Ashley in action over the years, doing business in pubs, hotel bars and casinos,” Jeffrey Chapman QC told Mr Justice Leggatt. “Doing business with enormous success.” Mr Chapman said evidence aired suggested Mr Ashley was a “power-drinking, money-making machine”.
‘Vomited into fireplace’
Mr Justice Leggatt, hearing the case, has been told that Mr Ashley once vomited into a fireplace after a senior management meeting that was “effectively a pub lock-in” and heard that the businessman would take naps under tables at “boring” meetings.
Barrister David Cavender QC, who is leading Mr Ashley’s legal team, said there was a “degree of surrealism” about the case and told the judge: “We have all enjoyed it enormously.” Mr Justice Leggatt smiled as he told the court: “It’s a lot more interesting than some other cases.”
“The deal he entered into with Mr Blue was, like so many of his deals, a brilliant one for Mike Ashley,” said Mr Chapman. “Incentivising Mr Blue into working hard to try and double Sport Direct’s share price, which is what he did.” Mr Chapman added: “Mr Ashley reneged by paying Mr Blue £1 million.”
Mr Cavender said Mr Blue had taken no note of conversations he said he had with Mr Ashley about the £15 million deal. He said that was “quite extraordinary” and suggested Mr Blue was the “sort of man who would take a note if he coughed”.
“This claim just doesn’t work,” said Mr Cavender. “It is, we say, the story of a disappointed, aggrieved man.” Mr Cavender said Mr Blue had not behaved like a man with an “entitlement”.
“It is the behaviour of a man who thinks he may be able to get something from Mike,” said Mr Cavender. “He thinks he may, in some way, possibly get a bonus if he plays his cards right.” Mr Cavender said Mr Blue could not distinguish between “what is banter and what is not”.
Mr Blue was in court on Wednesday. Mr Ashley was not in court.