Sports Direct owner wins case
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)