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Mike Ashley turns up heat in dispute with Debenhams

16 March 2019

Sports Direct has offered to provide Debenhams with an interest-free loan of £150m in return for an extra 5 per cent stake in the retailer.

The loan was offered in a statement by Sports Direct on Wednesday, and would involve the company getting an additional 5 percent stake in Debenhams, as well as the appointment of Ashley as CEO.

Debenhams said any third party loan offer on the terms offered would require both the consent of its existing lenders and bondholders as well as "material amendments" to existing facilities.

They said, "Nevertheless, the board will give careful consideration to the proposal and will engage with Sports Direct and other stakeholders regarding its feasibility in the interests of all parties". Articles appear on euronews.com for a limited time.

If this was approved, the loan would be interest-free, but without the share issue it would bear 3% interest.

"Debenhams would agree to put a proposal to its independent shareholders to approve the issue of circa 5% new shares at the prevailing market price to Sports Direct (so as to increase Sports Direct's shareholding to circa 35%)".

Debenhams, which has net debt of around £286m and a committed debt facility of £520m that expires next year, said on Monday that it was in "advanced negotiations" with lenders about a new £150m loan, around £40m of which would be used to repay the bridge loan announced on 12 February.

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It is the latest twist in the retail mogul's bid to take control of Debenhams, which he already owns 30% of through Sports Direct.

This came as Sports Direct also revealed on Wednesday that it had made a complaint to the City watchdog over communications from Debenhams.

It is the latest move in Mr Ashley's high street shopping spree.

Ashley, one of Britain's most famous and unorthodox businessmen and owner of the Newcastle United soccer club, last week launched a coup to take charge of Debenhams, seeking a shareholder meeting to remove most of its board and install himself in an executive role.

The Sports Direct letter alleged that the update on 10 January was "quite clearly misleading" in saying "we continue to generate cash" given emergency funding of £40m was needed by Debenhams "a mere five weeks later".

Debenhams confirmed early on Thursday morning that it had received Ashley's offer and that it was under consideration.

Mike Ashley turns up heat in dispute with Debenhams