Sports Di­rect owner wins case

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK -

A FOR­MER Mer­rill Lynch banker has lost his claim that Mike Ash­ley, founder and boss of Bri­tish re­tailer Sports Di­rect, promised him a £15m (€16.8m) bonus dur­ing a heavy drink­ing ses­sion.

Jef­frey Blue al­leged that Mr Ash­ley pledged dur­ing a meet­ing in Jan­uary 2013 at the Horse & Groom pub close to Sports Di­rect’s Lon­don of­fice, to pay the bonus if he could dou­ble Sports Di­rect’s share price to £8 within three years.

Sports Di­rect’s shares, which were listed at £3 each in 2007, rose above £8 in Fe­bru­ary 2014, but Mr Blue said Mr Ash­ley re­neged on their deal, pay­ing him £1m.

Jus­tice Leg­gatt ruled against Blue yes­ter­day, say­ing Ash­ley’s of­fer was part of “a joc­u­lar con­ver­sa­tion”.

“No rea­son­able per­son pre­sent in the Horse & Groom... would have thought that the of­fer to pay Blue £15m was se­ri­ous and was in­tended to cre­ate a con­tract,” he said.

He ruled that no one pre­sent in the pub, in­clud­ing Mr Blue, thought so at the time and they had all thought it was a joke.

“The fact that Blue has since con­vinced him­self that the of­fer was a se­ri­ous one, and that a legally bind­ing agree­ment was made, shows only that the hu­man ca­pac­ity for wish­ful think­ing knows few bounds,” Mr Leg­gatt said.

Sports Di­rect’s Mr Ash­ley, who also owns New­cas­tle United, gave ev­i­dence dur­ing the case lit­tered with lurid tales of boozy busi­ness meet­ings. He told the court he was try­ing to get drunk dur­ing the meet­ing at the Horse & Groom and drank four or five pints of beer in the first hour. (Reuters)

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