Mike Ashley has launched a new attack on Debenhams executives as he tabled a £150m rescue offer, accusing the board of “a sustained programme of falsehoods and denials”.
The Sports Direct billionaire’s increasingly bitter pursuit of Debenhams intensified on Sunday night as he urged board members to take lie detector tests and called for the chain’s shares to be suspended.
Mr Ashley offered to underwrite a £150m sale of new shares in the company in a deal that would see him take over as chief executive.
In his latest broadside against the company, he said that “misrepresentations were made to induce Sports Direct into signing a non-disclosure agreement, locking them out of any ability to trade in the bonds or equity of Debenhams for a period of time”.
In a statement, Sports Direct said Mr Ashley and two Sports Direct colleagues had taken lie detector tests which showed “without any doubt” that they were telling the truth in their recollection of the meeting.
“Indeed, Mike Ashley’s score for example was so significantly high as to be considered rare in comparison to others,” Sports Direct said.
The retail magnate’s new proposal is contingent on £148m of debt being written off, meaning it will face stiff opposition from Debenhams’ lenders.
But if Mr Ashley’s approach is rejected, Debenhams is likely to go into administration this week with its lenders seizing control. That would make Sports Direct’s stake worthless.
Sports Direct, which owns just under 30 per cent of Debenhams, confirmed its proposals on Monday and said it was still considering a £61.4m bid to buy up the rest of the shares.
In a stock exchange announcement, Sports Direct said it had until 17:00 on 22 April to announce a firm offer or walk away.
“Whilst Sports Direct continues to actively evaluate all possible options to support Debenhams, it wishes to clarify that, as a technical matter, were it to complete, the equity issuance would be an alternative transaction to the possible offer and vice versa,” the company said.
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