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LONDON – Sports Direct founder and billionaire Mike Ashley won his £15 million High Court dispute over an alleged promise made in a pub.
Former advisor Jeff Blue claimed Ashley had promised to pay him £15 million if he could help double the company’s share price, from £4 to £8, over drinks during a night out in 2013.
Blue said he had only been paid £1 million of the full amount promised to him.
Ashley said in court testimony earlier this month that he didn’t recall making such a pledge. “Things were said. I don’t remember what I said,” Ashley said on July 6. “It’s banter, it’s fun.”
The judge, Mr Justice Leggatt, commented on Blue’s optimism, according to media reports:
Mike Ashley wins lawsuit over infamous drunken bonus deal. Judge: the case "shows the human capacity for wishful thinking knows few bounds."
— Patrick Gower (@PatrickGower) July 26, 2017
The visit to the Horse & Groom pub in 2013, when the promise was said to have been made, was part of Blue’s efforts to land a new corporate broker for Sports Direct after Merrill Lynch resigned. The pace of drinking was fast, according to Ashley.
“The second pint would probably be between 10 and, at most, 15 minutes,” Ashley said. “The third pint is, what, 30 minutes-ish? Are you slowing down then? Within the first hour you would’ve had between four and five pints.”
The extraordinary trial shone a light on Mike Ashley’s unconventional business style and his capacity for drink.
Blue alleged he witnessed Ashley challenge a junior stock analyst to a drinking contest at a management meeting in a pub. Ashley won after 12 pints with vodka chasers, before promptly vomiting into the pub fireplace to cheers from the managers.
Ashley disputes many of Blue’s claims and says the former Merrill Lynch banker is simply trying to damage his reputation by making outlandish claims in court. Ashley said one allegation – that he personally paid Sports Direct’s former CEO Dave Forsey up to £1 million a year privately – was “utter bulls***.”