James Moore: MySale deal opens the easy route to the land of opportunity for Ashley

Outlook: The tactic of taking a sizeable minority stake in another business as a means of forcing the target to the table to talk business is one his Sports Direct has used before

A fat finger, a tumbling share price, then a fat stake taken out by a company whose founder is apparently not unfond of the pies they sell at half-time at his football club. The Australian fashion discounter MySale has packed more news into its first few weeks as a quoted company than many more established businesses manage in months, if not years.

To explain: while grappling with the aftermath of its shares mistakenly being priced in pounds rather than pence when it floated in London – traders misread £2.26 as 2.26p, causing a rush of automatic sell orders – Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct swooped to buy a  4.8 per cent stake.

To add even more spice to the mix, the move meant Mr Ashley was sort of partnering with Sir Philip Green – the retail mega-mogul’s wife Tina owns just over 20 per cent of MySale through an offshore investment vehicle.  

But that isn’t what this was all about. Mr Ashley wanted a gateway into Australia, and he wanted MySale to provide him with it.

The tactic of taking a sizeable minority stake in another business as a means of forcing the target to the table to talk business is one his Sports Direct has used before.

You’d think a better use of shareholders’ funds  would be to just pick up the phone. But Mr Ashley and his company seem to get what they want. A similar assault on Debenhams shares, for example, led to the group offering Sports Direct concessions in its outlets.

The MySale purchase has yielded an even bigger prize because MySale has agreed to provide Sports Direct’s Antipodean gateway by way of a joint venture between the two.

At first you might wonder why the latter doesn’t simply go it alone. After all, it’s now in 19 European countries. Moreover, sportswear prices in Australia suggest that the time is right for a discounter to come in and undercut them.

Take replica Wallaby rugby tops. You’ll pay A$160, nearly £90. An equivalent England rugby shirt will cost £55. The same goes for cricket where an Australia twenty20 jersey will cost you A$120, or £66, compared with an England jersey at £37. Exchange rates can’t be the only explanation for this, and the pound has strengthened against the Aussie dollar of late. Say G’day to Sports Direct and kit like that may soon be cheaper.

But why bother taking the time and money to do something yourself if you can get it done cheaper with the help of a partner like MySale, which has nearly 12 million customers that it’s willing to let you get your hands on?

It’s true MySale will reap some benefits if Mr Ashley’s operation takes off down under as it has over here, and in large parts of Europe.

But the big winner here isn’t wearing a Wallaby top. He’s wearing the black and white stripes of Newcastle United.

Politicians and regulators share the blame for Wonga

 It looks like wonga.com is going to have to do with less of it. Wonga that is. So says Andy Haste, the payday lender’s new chairman. He has moved quickly on taking the reins at the scandal-hit company, jettisoning those ubiquitous ads featuring cutesy grandparent puppets for starters.

That will garner the headlines given their high profile and success in attracting legions of customers, many of whom clearly couldn’t afford to repay loans with even relatively modest interest charges, let alone Wonga’s near-6,000 per cent APR. 

Of more significance is that their removal is to be accompanied by a tightening of Wonga’s lending criteria together with an admission that the company is about to become a smaller, and significantly less profitable, business.

The grandiose ambitions of Errol Damelin, the man Mr Haste is replacing, to rival Apple, Amazon and Facebook have been put on ice. Probably permanently now that a cap on the charges companies such as Wonga can levy is being introduced.

In addition to shrinking the business, Mr Haste, and a new chief executive whenever they are appointed, will have to spend much of their time dealing with the wreckage left by Mr Damelin’s pursuit of those ambitions. Saying “sorry” – a word prominently displayed on Wonga’s eponymous website – may not be enough.

Apparently, Mr Haste wants to “reintroduce” Britons to a more responsible business. Your future financial health would be best served by saying thanks, but no thanks.

But let’s not forget, either, how easy it was for Wonga to get to this point and how  long it took politicians and regulators to act while Betty, Earl and Joyce tempted the foolish and the desperate into using its usurious product.

Some would say they should take responsibility for their decisions, and that’s true up to a point. Trouble is, when you’re in dire straits you’ll clutch at straws, even if they’re covered in hidden thorns. Even if you know they’re there.

Those who facilitated Wonga’s rise through their inaction should reflect on the fact this is a scandal that need never have happened.

PR firm could do with some help with communications

 When it comes to communications, Huntsworth could do with some help. The company is warning shareholders that earnings will be short of expectations. But there’s no explanation as to why this might be. And you won’t find any contact numbers at the bottom of its profit warning, sorry, trading update.

Perhaps Huntsworth should call in a PR adviser? Except that it already owns one of London’s biggest (Citigate).

If you’re a worried investor, you could try calling them. But they’re probably all in meetings.

Don’t worry, though, as they promise to get back to you.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us