B2B Engagement

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has said that the takeover of Debenhams by its lenders as part of an administration process is “nothing short of a national scandal”.

The store chain rejected two last-ditch takeover offers from Sports Direct. Under Tuesday’s deal, all stores will remain open for now, although some have been earmarked for closure. Mr Ashley said politicians and regulators had been “as effective as a chocolate teapot”.

He also called for the administration process to be reversed. Debenhams is the biggest department store chain in the UK with 166 stores. It employs about 25,000 people. Its lenders are made up of High Street banks and US hedge funds.

Mr Ashley said reversing the administration process would mean that “a full, better and appropriate solvent solution can be found”.

And he added: “This solution would include allowing myself and appropriate senior Sports Direct management access to detailed information to save the business for all stakeholders.

“The board of Debenhams and its advisers have sought to stifle and exclude us from their so-called process and have undermined and blocked our various offers of assistance as they carried out their underhand plan to steal from shareholders.”

Sports Direct said it had formally registered its interest in buying Debenhams from its new owners.

However, Chris Wootton, Sports Direct’s deputy chief financial officer told the BBC he believed Debenhams lenders may already have a plan in place: “It’s a case of the deal being done with a third party that keeps us locked out of it.”

He said the firm was considering legal action against Debenhams’ board over shareholders’ losses.

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