The bizarre life of Mike Ashley
There has been a bizarrely entertaining court case taking place this week as Sports Direct and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is defending claims he agreed to pay a banker £15m while binge drinking in a London pub.
Jeffrey Blue is claiming £14m in damages, saying the tycoon paid only £1m of £15m he promised if he used his expertise to increase Sports Direct's share price to £8 a share. The company hit £8 per share in February 2014, reaching a high of £9.22 in April of the same year.
The share price has been anywhere between £2.50 and £2.90 this year as a result of a string of scandals involving Ashley, whose business was found to be paying under the minimum wage last year and subsequently fined by HMRC. This followed a bizarre appearance at one of Sports Direct’s warehouses where the billionaire flashed a wad of £50 notes in front of staff upon entering the building.
A string of outrageous accusations have since been levelled at Mr Ashley in court, including the assertion by Mr Blue that he regularly got underneath boardroom tables to take a nap if the nature of board meetings made him bored.
Mr Blue also said that during one night of heavy drinking, saying that Ashley regularly conducted meetings in pubs whilst getting blind drunk, he had a drinking competition with a Polish employee before vomiting in the pubs fireplace.
Providing his defence to the court, apparently uninterested in dismissing views that he’s a drunken liability, Ashley said he would have downed the first four pints of the session in about an hour and pointed out that the beers were “coming like machine guns” every few minutes that night.
“I like to get drunk, I’m a power drinker,” Ashley said. “My thing is not to drink regularly, it’s to binge drink. I’m trying to get drunk – will you accept that? I was drinking to have a good night out.”
Ashley is the 54th richest person in the UK, according to the Sunday Times rich list, and when asked about his fortune, insinuated that the majority of it was tied up in Sports Direct shares. He said “Do you honestly think I’m worth £2bn less [than] when the shares were at £9?” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference until you sell them if they’re worth £20-a-share – they’re wallpaper.”
Ashley said he would have had four to five pints within the first hour. “We would have had the first pint in between five and 10 minutes,” he said. “The second pint would probably be between 10 and, longest case, 15 minutes. The third pint is what 30 minute-ish – you’re slowing down by then.”
The astonishing case is continuing in the high court, with an outcome expected in the coming days.