Mike Ashley wins high court fight over ‘₤ 15m bar offer’

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Financial investment lender Jeffrey Blue loses claim versus Sports Direct and Newcastle United owner over offer apparently made in club

Newcastle United owner and Sports Direct employer Mike Ashley has won a high court fight over a ₤ 15m offer presumably made in a London club, calling time on a case that will be long remembered for days of proof worrying extreme alcohol usage.

The case focused on financial investment lender Jeffrey Blue’s claims that throughout a “night of heavy drinking” at the Horse and Groom bar near Sports Direct’s Oxford Street store in January 2013, Ashley accepted pay him ₤ 15m if the company’s shares doubled to ₤ 8.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Mr Justice Leggatt, who had stated he discovered the case was “a lot more intriguing than some”, ruled that nobody would have believed exactly what Ashley stated in the club was “major”.

“The Sports Direct senior management conferences definitely reveal that Mr Ashley enjoys integrating conversation of business matters with the usage of alcohol,” the judge stated in his judgment. “But there is no proof to recommend that Mr Ashley has ever worked out or concluded an agreement at one of these conferences.

“The night at the Horse and Groom was, in any occasion, a significantly less official celebration than the senior management conferences, as there was no program or structure for the event and the discussion was mainly social or general chat, instead of being particularly directed to any business topic.”

Ashley was not in court to hear the judge provide his judgment, but his legal representatives stated he had won a “extensive” triumph.

In a declaration, the business owner stated: “The only factor the Sports Direct share cost surpassed ₤ 8, and will ideally do so once again, is because of the sterling efforts of all individuals who operate at Sports Direct.”

Ashley, who offered proof at the trial, stated he might not remember making the supposed offer and if he had it would have been “certainly simply small talk”.

He had informed the court that he had fulfilled Blue, who was then an advisor to Sports Direct, and 3 other finance professionals at the Horse & Groom club and “taken in a great deal of alcohol”.

“I cannot keep in mind the information of the discussions that we had in the bar as it was a heavy night of drinking,” Ashley had stated. “I do keep in mind that we had a great deal of beverages and a great deal of small talk.

” If I did say to Mr Blue that I would pay him ₤ 15m if he might increase [Sports Direct’s] share rate to ₤ 8, it would be apparent to everybody, consisting of Mr Blue, that I wasn’t being major.”

He stated he paid Blue, whom he called “Jeffers”, ₤ 1m for “other offers” unassociated to the night in the Horse & Groom.

Sports Direct’s shares struck the ₤ 8 cost target in February 2014. The shares have since collapsed listed below ₤ 3, in part because of reputational damage triggered by a Guardian examination that exposed employees at the seller’s Derbyshire storage facility were being paid less than the base pay.

Soon after the shares struck ₤ 8 at 1.04 pm on 25 February 2014 Blue’s spouse, who was likewise in court, texted him to say: “It’s struck 8!!!!!”

Blue informed the judge that Ashley was a “severe business owner”. He stated the work principles at Sports Direct were “like absolutely nothing else I have ever seen”, but he stated Ashley in some cases operated “in unconventional methods and in uncommon places”.

Blue declared Ashley when threw up into a fireplace after a senior management meeting that was “efficiently a bar lock-in” and stated the entrepreneur would take naps under tables at “dull” conferences.

Attorneys informed the judge that Ashley had added legal costs of ₤ 1.5 m, and Blue costs of “₤ 1m-odd”.

The judge stated Blue would need to get Ashley’s legal costs and ₤ 600,000 would need to be paid on account within the next month.

Attorneys showed that Blue had been “helped” by insurance companies in releasing the litigation.