Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley wins £15m court case

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Mike Ashley was described in court as a “power drinker”

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has won a High Court battle with an investment banker over a £15m deal allegedly made in a pub.

Jeffrey Blue told the court Newcastle United’s owner reneged on a promise to pay him a multimillion-pound sum if he increased the firm’s share price.

The court heard about “drink-fuelled” meetings in pubs, including one where Mr Ashley “vomited into a fireplace”.

Mr Ashley’s lawyers said he had won a “comprehensive” victory.

Read more about the Mike Ashley case here.

The hearing was told that four years’ ago Mr Ashley met Mr Blue and three other finance specialists at the Horse and Groom in London and “consumed a lot of alcohol”.

Mr Ashley said: “I can’t remember the details of the conversations that we had in the pub as it was a heavy night of drinking.

“If I did say to Mr Blue that I would pay him £15m if he could increase [Sports Direct’s] share price to £8, it would be obvious to everyone, including Mr Blue, that I wasn’t being serious.”

He said he paid Mr Blue £1m in “other deals” unrelated to the Horse and Groom meeting.

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Jeffrey Blue described “unorthodox” working practices at Sports Direct

Mr Blue described Mr Ashley as a “serious businessman”, but said the work ethic at Sports Direct was “like nothing else I have ever seen” with business conducted “in unorthodox ways and in unusual venues”.

He said that during the Horse and Groom meeting Mr Ashley promised him £15m, but Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell said Mr Blue only mentioned the figure of £1m to him.

Ruling in Mr Ashley’s favour, judge Justice Leggatt said said no-one would have thought what was said in the pub was “serious”.

In a statement after the ruling Mr Ashley said: “The only reason the Sports Direct share price exceeded £8, and will hopefully do so again, is because of the sterling efforts of all the people who work at Sports Direct.”

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