Mike Ashley steps up bid for control of Debenhams

Sports Direct chief executive offered to step down from role to take on Debenhams challenge

Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

 

Billionaire Mike Ashley ramped up his campaign to take charge of Debenhams, again urging the ailing department store chain to appoint him to the board and replace most of the directors.

Sports Direct International, which is owned by Mr Ashley, on Thursday called for Debenhams to hold a general meeting in a bid to remove all the current directors except Rachel Osborne.

Mr Ashley, one of Britain’s most famous and unorthodox businessmen, launched a coup earlier this month to take charge of Debenhams, in which he owns a nearly 30 per cent stake.

As part of the plan, he offered to step down from his role as Sports Direct’s boss.

Mr Ashley, who owns Newcastle United soccer club, made his fortune from building retailer Sports Direct and has recently snapped up stakes in other struggling chains hit by more people shopping online and weak consumer spending.

Last week, Sports Direct offered Debenhams an interest-free loan in return for a further 5 per cent stake, just as the department store chain was on the brink of securing funds to fend off Mr Ashley’s bid to take charge of the company.

Debenhams said that it would consider the £150 million (€173 million) unsecured loan offer. – Reuters