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Ashley flashing the cash


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Mike Ashley's Sports Direct has made an aggressive swoop on a 29 per cent stake in Blacks Leisure, the troubled retailer, that would allow it to vote against a rescue package proposed by the Blacks board at the annual meeting on Wednesday.


The shares, and an 11 per cent stake in a third chain, JD Sports Fashion, were acquired in October by the administrators of Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, the bank owned by Kaupthing, of Iceland.


A terse announcement from Sports Direct, which is controlled by Mr Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United Football Club, said that its subsidiary Sportsdirect.com Retail, which had been in dispute with the administrators over the shares in Blacks and JD Sports, proposed to acquire the rights to them.


If the purchase goes ahead, Mr Ashley would be voting against various resolutions put by the Blacks board on Wednesday's meeting, although this decision "remains subject to review and final determination by the board" before the meeting.


Among the proposals that Mr Ashley is threatening to vote against at the meeting this week is a proposed £20 million fundraising announced by Blacks this year.


Though the company would not comment further, it is thought that no terms have been agreed with the administrators for the purchase of the shares in JD and Blacks, and the price will be the subject of tough negotiations between financial advisers as the date of the meeting approaches.


Various suitors have circled Blacks Leisure as its management has moved to secure its financial future.


Mr Ashley made a preliminary approach a year ago. Lion Capital, the private equity firm, has also expressed an interest in buying the chain.

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  • 4 weeks later...

High street retailer Blacks Leisure isn’t exactly rolling out the red carpet for Mike Ashley, its largest shareholder, who’s just launched a bid to buy the company. Ashley’s Sports Direct has offered 62p a share to buy Blacks, equivalent to about £26m – but shareholders apparently won’t get out of bed for less than 100p, i.e. £43m. Blacks rather snottily dismissed the offer as ‘wholly inadequate’ today, and argued that investors would be much better off if its proposed fundraising (previously blocked by – you guessed it – Sports Direct) was allowed to go through. It’s almost like they think Ashley is trying to pick them up on the cheap...


Sports Direct has been circling Blacks (owner of both Blacks and Millets) for a few years now, and with a stake of just under 30% (having resolved its row with the administrators of Kaupthing), it’s the company’s biggest individual shareholder. But Ashley's not in any mood to line his fellow investors’ pockets: this 62p-a-share offer is a measly 3% higher than the pre-bid closing price. Sports Direct points out that it’s still higher than the share price has been all year – but investors would be excused for considering this to be a pretty miserly premium. The Blacks board clearly thinks so too, judging by its rapid rebuttal.


The other big bone of contention between the two is that Sports Direct was responsible for blocking a £20m fundraising last month, which was intended to finance the last phase of Blacks' turnaround plan. This, the latter says, ‘would have led to a substantial increase in shareholder value’ – since CEO Neil Gillis would have been able to refinance his expensive overdraft and spend some dosh re-fitting some of his more dilapidated stores. Instead, it argued today, with this offer ‘Sports Direct is attempting to transfer that potential shareholder value from shareholders to Sports Direct.’


The good news for Blacks is that it does have a plan B: a different type of fundraising called the ‘gazette route’. This only requires the backing of 50% of shareholders, so it doesn’t matter if Sports Direct refuses to play ball. Since other investors seem willing to participate (perhaps on the basis that Blacks’ share price is now so low that the only way is up), that means Ashley isn’t in the strongest negotiating position. So if he wants to get his hands on Blacks, he’s going to have to dig a lot deeper than this. (Although Blacks is unlikely to mind if he doesn't.)



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More importantly, how does this affect us?


Hopefully, if he is a better financial situation, it will help our cause next year. Admittedly i know little about business affairs.

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If it makes him money then its better for us him




I know, I know, rabid Ashley hater has a go again, but anyway...


It's another pointer towards the character of the man that some still think is just a benevolent footy loving benefactor who bought the club for a bit of fun on a whim and has just made a few silly mistakes whilst battling against an inevitable financial crisis.


The implication in this article is that Cuddly Mike is willing to sabotage the recovery attempt of a company he owns a 30% share in, in the hope of forcing a complete takeover by him at a currently distressed valuation of the company. Nice.

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There used to be a Field & Trek on Baker Street. A good place to get quality outdoor gear, camping gear - albeit at a price - but since Ashley bought it out, it's been rebranded as 'He runs She runs' and it is now exactly like a Sports Direct store. Big green tickets , Polish assistants who know nothing about the products they are selling, and shit brands.

Blacks are right to fight off this shitehawk.

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Guest malandro

The same thing at happened to Lillywhites did it not? For generations it was all about quality, then Ashley bought it and now it’s apparently a pile it high sell them cheap chav magnet.


This is what he does. He buys well known brands that are going through a rough patch, cuts cost to the bone and makes his money on the back of brand loyalty. I’d suggest this is what he’s doing to NUFC, but won’t as that would be rapid anti-ashleyism.


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Guest guinness_fiend

You can see what he's wanting to do like.

Offer cheap camping gear sold in an over warm, disorganised shop by people in shorts and hiking boots. Donnay tents, Lonsdale camping stoves. Get in on the cheap British holiday market.


Fat, Lazy, Greedy C**t


Blacks and Millets both specialise in selling crap own-brand gear (compared to "proper" outdoor stores) on the cheap, with a bit of trendy North Face stuff thrown in to get people into the store.


It's his business model down to the ground, so it is hardly surprising he is considering a bid.

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If anyone ever thought our current owner was some sort of do-gooder/philanthropist then a bit of basic research would soon set them straight. He's crapped all over people throughout his business career, and very few people who get as far as floating a company on the stock market and pocketing almost a £billion in cash in the process are any different. It's the real world and it won't change. Our main source of comfort has to be that he was rich enough to be able to fund his mistakes and, although different views prevail as to why it happened, he found a way back to the Premiership.


And if any of the fans of our previous board want a happy thought to help them sleep they can just remember that when Ashley bought this club he got well and truly shafted. If he's prepared to get out, write off a good chunk of money, find an owner who understands the business (and has deep pockets) then it's possible that there is a God.     

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