Jul 26, 2017

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley wins court battle with former banker

Mike Ashley, Sports Direct's chief executive, has won a £14m court battle with a former business associate after persuading a judge that a boozy conversation in a pub had not culminated in a legally binding promise to hand over millions of pounds. After consuming several pints of beer, the court found that Mr Ashley made an expensive-sounding promise to Jeff Blue, a corporate financier who was working for him at the time. If the former Merrill Lynch banker could double the sports retailer's share price to £8 within three years, Mr Blue would receive a £15m reward. Mr Justice Leggatt criticised Mr Blue for claiming that Mr Ashley had "In effect bribed" Sports Direct's non-executive directors by treating them to expensive wine and a lucrative night in a casino shortly before they approved a share award that could have handed him £64m. While that "Mischievous" allegation was "Unnecessary and . . . inappropriately made", the judge declined to award higher costs against Mr Blue as punishment. Mr Ashley's lawyers made no objection to the inclusion of testimony by Mr Blue relating to an episode in the Green Dragon pub near Sports Direct's Derbyshire headquarters, where the tycoon is said to have vomited triumphantly into a fireplace after narrowly winning a drinking contest with a young investment banker.

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