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Mike Ashley (businessman)

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Mike Ashley (born 1964) is an English born billionaire retail entrepreneur, in the sports goods market.

 

Ranked 54th on the 2006 version of the Sunday Times Rich List, Ashley is an intensely private person, who never attends industry functions or gives interviews. Philip Beresford, who compiles the annual Sunday Times list, says neither he nor his staff have ever managed to contact Ashley, and describes him as "easily Britain's answer to the late Howard Hughes."[1]

 

Contents [hide]

1 Biography

1.1 Marketing tactics

1.2 Whistleblower

2 Personal life

3 References

 

 

 

[edit] Biography

Ashley grew up in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, where his parents still live in a modest bungalow. Educated at Burnham Grammar School, the only photos that exist of Ashley to the present day are from the 1970's, when he was a county squash coach.

 

After leaving school at 16, Ashley began trading on the high street, opening Sport and Ski shops in and around London in the 1980's - by 1990, there were three registered and recorded outlets. The chain expanded quickly funded by private money and profit from the stores, and by the late 1990s Ashley had rebranded the chain Sports Soccer and opened over 100 stores across the United Kingdom. However, as a sole trader and not having to file accounts at Companies House, little was known about him even by rival retailers. Although sole-trader status preserved his privacy, Ashley was missing out on the limited-liability advantage offered by company status, and in 1999 incorporated the business[2].

 

Ashley's Hertfordshire based group Sports World International, with headquarters in Dunstable, Bedfordshire has over 300 UK stores including the chains Sports World, Lillywhites (acquired in 2002), and the Original Shoe Company. The group employs 8,000 people in the UK and at stores in Ireland, Belgium and Slovenia. In 2006 it over took JJB Sports as the UK's largest sports wear retailer[3]. In mid-2006 it was also revealed that Ashley had held talks with John Hargreaves, founder of Matalan on both taking a 25% stake in the trouble retail business and installing mezzanine floors in larger Matalan stores, on which Sports World outlets could be operated[4].

 

In February 2003 he bought the Dunlop Slazenger brand for £40M, followed up by acquiring outdoor gear manufacturer Karrimor in March 2003[5], Kangol for £10M[6], boxing brand Lonsdale and tennis brand Donnay. Most of these brands are bought from distressed sellers, including after looking at a takeover[7], Ashley took a £9 million stake and signed a lucrative long-term deal with troubled brand Umbro[8].

 

Ashley has built a 29.4% stake in Blacks Leisure, the owner of Millets and Mambo[9], and is thought to hold stakes in JJB Sports and 19% of JD Sports[10]. "He likes to park his tanks on peoples' lawns," said a banker [11].

 

In late November 2006, a number of business newspapers reported that Ashley was looking at an IPO of Sports World International. He has hired Merrill Lynch[12], who have initially valued the group at up to £2.5bn ahead of the flotation on the London Stock Exchange[13]. Floated at 300p, the shares initially performed poorly, on sentiment surrounding the sports retail sector and on suspicion of the group's busienss model.

 

 

[edit] Marketing tactics

Often derided as a Tesco like "pile it high, sell it cheap" merchant after his transformation of the croquet-set loving Lillywhites, Ashley's chain has a more advnced approach. The chain will often use a Closing Down sales tactic on its multiple brand outlets, and re-open in another location soon afterwards. Customers are also drawn into the store by almost margin-less promotions on perceived high-value brands like Nike trainers and Adidas tops, making money for Sports World when they also buy an own brand item marked up at a substantial margin[14]

 

The brands themselves are an increasingly important part of the business, and Ashley made £10m from selling the intellectual-property rights to the Slazenger Golf brand to arch-rival JJB in 2005.

 

 

[edit] Whistleblower

Ashley turned whistleblower on industry rivals in 2000, handing the Office of Fair Trading evidence of business meetings held by sports retailers to fix the price of football shirts. Ashley attended a meeting at the Cheshire home of David Hughes, the chairman of now bankrupt rival Allsports. At the meeting Dave Whelan, the founder of JJB Sports, reportedly told Ashley: "There's a club in the north son, and you're not part of it."

 

 

[edit] Personal life

Little is known of Ashley's private life, except that his former home was a 16-bedroom former hotel in Buckinghamshire. It is known that he prefers casual dress of shirt and chino's or a track suit over a suit, and often carries his essential business tool of a mobile phone in a plastic carrier bag over a brief case.

 

At 24 in 1988, Ashley married Swedish property developer Linda Jerlmyr, and they have three children. When she divorced him 14 years later, he quietly agreed one of the biggest settlements in British legal history, reportedly handing over the family home, property and assets with total worth of £50m[15].

 

The secretive billionaire is thought to live alone in a large house on the edge of a Hertfordshire village. The building is hidden by trees, and CCTV cameras keep watch over the locked gates at the entrance to the half-mile drive. Ashley's neighbours say they never see him. At the nearby pub, nobody has heard of him. When the local newspaper attempted to find out more about him a few months ago, they eventually resorted to placing an advert in their own pages appealing for information - No one responded[16].

 

 

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