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Lexis+ AI
John Vander Luit

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Ashley wins court case over £15m pub deal

Ashley wins court case over £15m pub deal


No evidence to suggest Sports Direct owner concludes deals outside of senior management meetings, says judge

Sports Direct boss and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley will not have to pay out on a multi-million pound deal he allegedly made in a pub during a 'night of heavy drinking', the High Court has ruled.

Investment banker Jeffrey Blue claimed Ashley agreed during an booze-fuelled pub meeting in January 2013 that he'd pay him £15m if Sports Direct's company shares doubled to £8, which they did in February 2014.

Mr Justice Leggatt, who said during the trial that the case was 'a lot more interesting' than other business disputes, ruled in Ashley's favour.

'The Sports Direct senior management meetings certainly show that Mr Ashley is happy to combine discussion of business matters with the consumption of alcohol,' said Leggatt J. 'But there is no evidence to suggest that Mr Ashley has ever negotiated or concluded a contract at one of these meetings.

'The evening at the Horse and Groom was, in any event, a considerably less formal occasion than the senior management meetings, as there was no agenda or structure for the occasion and the conversation was largely social or general chat, rather than being specifically directed to any business subject.'

Giving evidence at trial, Ashley said he could not remember making the alleged deal, but if he had then it would have been 'obviously just banter'.

He claimed that if had offered £15m to the then adviser to Sports Direct, 'it would be obvious to everyone, including Mr Blue, that I wasn't being serious'.

The judge said Blue will now have to pay Ashley's legal costs of £1.5m on top of his own of around '£1m-odd'.

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