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Sports Direct Founder's Investments Could Fill a Department Store

Billionaire Mike Ashley's current direct and indirect holdings include Debenhams, House of Fraser and French Connection, among others.
Sports Direct Store | Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Bloomberg

LONDON, United Kingdom — Billionaire Mike Ashley has a myriad of investments around the world spanning department store chains, video-game merchants and soccer.

The latest move by the founder of Sports Direct International Plc is a proposal to join the Debenhams Plc’s board. The sports retailer owns about 30 percent of the troubled UK department store and market commentators are asking what Ashley will do with his stake, particularly after his company bought rival chain House of Fraser Ltd. in August.

Here’s are some of Ashley’s current direct and indirect holdings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and calculations:

Sports Direct

Ashley owns more than half of Sports Direct, the UK’s biggest sporting-goods retailer, which he holds through the investment vehicles Mash Beta Ltd. and Mash Holdings Ltd. Sports Direct went public in February 2007 and the shares are trading about 13 percent below the IPO price, with a current market value of 1.4 billion pounds ($1.83 billion).

Debenhams

(29.7% stake valued at 11 million pounds)

Ian Cheshire was ousted as chairman in January, while Chief Executive Officer Sergio Bucher was also voted off the Debenhams board, in a campaign led by Sports Direct. Sports Direct first reported a stake in the department-store chain in January 2014.

House of Fraser

(100% ownership)

Just hours after department-store chain House of Fraser announced it was seeking administrators in August last year, Ashley agreed to buy the business for 90 million pounds. Since then, he’s been trying to get the troubled store back on its feet as online shopping continues to grow. His bid to run Debenhams has sparked speculation that he may be looking to merge the two rival chains.

French Connection

(26.09% stake valued at 9.6 million pounds)

French Connection Group Plc in October said it’s in the early stages of looking for a buyer. Sports Direct reported a stake in the company in February 2017 and is the second-largest shareholder in the clothing company after CEO Stephen Marks.

MySale

(4.79% stake valued at 1.3 million pounds)

Sports Direct bought its stake in Australia-based online retailer MySale Group Plc in June 2014 and said it saw potential for collaboration opportunities in Australia and Asia. Former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Dingle left the firm in October, while Iain McDonald resigned as chairman in December. The company in January said it had experienced challenging trading conditions in the first half of the fiscal year.

Newcastle United

Ashley took control of the Premier League soccer club for 134 million pounds in 2007 but effort to sell the team has fizzled. In 2017 his asking price was about 400 million pounds.

Game Digital

(25.44% stake valued at 11 million pounds)

Game Digital Plc entered into a collaboration agreement with Sports Direct in February 2018. The seller of Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation consoles is seeking to open more gaming arenas, and the pact could help accelerate the process, according to Liberum analyst Adam Tomlinson. Sports Direct first bought a stake in Game Digital in July 2017.

Goals Soccer

(18.92% stake valued at 5.5 million pounds)

Goals Soccer Centres Plc on Friday warned that it’s “working to resolve certain accounting errors” and reviewing its practices. Exchange filings show Sports Direct increasing its stake in the operator of football pitches over time, after initially revealing a 5 percent interest in November 2015.

Iconix Brand

(7.53% stake valued at $1.7 million)

Iconix Brand Group Inc. has been reviewing options to address its debt issues and had cited material errors in its financial statements for the three months ended March 2018. Sports Direct reported a stake in the Nasdaq-listed company in January 2016 and Iconix in July 2018 said it’s in a co-operation pact with Sports Direct.

Findel

(36.85% stake valued at 54 million pounds)

British catalog retailer Findel Plc earlier this week rejected a bid from Sports Direct, which had lifted its ownership to about 37 percent through the purchase of 6 million shares, triggering a mandatory offer for all of the company. Sports Direct has held a stake in the housewares seller since September 2015 and is its largest shareholder.

Evans Cycles

(100% ownership)

British cycling retailer Evans Cycles collapsed into administration in October. Seeking another opportunity to save a troubled UK retailer, Ashley bought it for 8 million pounds in a pre-packaged deal from private-equity firm ECI Partners. It’s been selling bikes and accessories from half its original stores ever since.

Ashley’s other holdings include lingerie brand Agent Provocateur and high-end clothing retailer Flannels Group.

By Lisa Pham and Ellen Milligan; editors: Celeste Perri, Eric Pfanner and Jon Menon.

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