Ashley’s Debenhams bail-out offer rebuffed
Written by Peter Walker
Mike Ashley has written to Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher offering a £40 million loan to bail out the struggling department store.
The Sports Direct boss wrote that he was making the offer at a "critical time" after the High Street was hit by "the worst November in living memory".
Ashley owns a 30 per cent stake in Debenhams and stated that the board "doesn't really seem to appreciate the position that Debenhams is currently in and their responsibility to shareholders".
Debenhams welcomed the proposal as a “clear demonstration of their willingness to support the company”, but ultimately turned Ashley down.
“As the offer came with conditions that could affect the interests of other stakeholders, while the board does not think it could accept the proposal, as presented, it has invited Sports Direct to engage as part of our broader refinancing process,” read a response.
The move followed Sports Direct reporting a 27 per cent fall in half-year profits, put fdown in part to the business rescuing the House of Fraser department store in August with a £90 million buy-out.
Debenhams reported a £492 million annual loss in October - the biggest in its history - and outlined plans to close up to 50 stores to help secure its future.
Whilst giving evidence to MPs earlier this month, Ashley suggested that House of Fraser could be merged with Debenhams.
In his letter to Butcher, he opined that the challenging retail sector would “literally smash them to pieces” and that Debenhams “currently has zero chance of survival” due to difficulties with suppliers and credit insurance.
“If I'm sounding extremely frustrated - well I am. We've seen this before, with Blacks and HoF,” read the letter. “We don't want to see Debenhams fail. It's not in our interest to see it fail, but without something changing rapidly all of the shareholders risk getting wiped out.”