Financial News

  • 9 April 2014, 13:19

Sports Direct Slips As Ashley Sells Stake

Shares in Mike Ashley's Sports Direct took a big tumble on the FTSE 100 on Tuesday after he sold a block of shares worth more than £200m.

It emerged late on Monday that the tycoon had offloaded 25 million shares just days after shareholders blocked his target-related £73m all-share bonus.

He has never taken a salary at Sports Direct.

Mr Ashley's share sale, through investment bank Goldman Sachs, took place as a separate investment in House of Fraser by Sports Direct was called into question by the department store chain ahead of the expected completion of its sale to Chinese firm Sanpower Group.

It emerged last weekend that Mr Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United, had snapped up an 11% stake in House of Fraser from business partner Sir Tom Hunter - a purchase that could be potentially reversed amid allegations it may not meet City rules.

House of Fraser complained: "We have sent legal letters to both parties, reminding them of the proper procedures to transfer shares, which have not been followed.

"This situation has no impact on our plans to sell to Sanpower and we will be making an announcement in due course."

House of Fraser claimed that pre-emption rights meant Sir Tom was obliged to formally offer his shares to existing shareholders before selling to an outside party.

Neither Mr Ashley nor Sir Tom have commented on the complaint.

Mr Ashley's motivation for the purchase is not known but there was speculation he was interested in using the department store chain as an alternative vehicle for his sportswear brands in the future.

His sell-off of Sports Direct stock on Monday takes his holding to 57.7% - worth almost £2.8bn.

Sports Direct shares, which have more than doubled in value in a year, were down 10.1% at 14:15 BST on Tuesday - wiping more than £500m off its market cap.

It is suggested that Mr Ashley's sale of Sports Direct shares was not linked to the House of Fraser acquisition but instead designed to increase the free float in Sports Direct shares based on demand from institutional investors.

It was his second major share offload of the year following a similar move in February.