Debenhams advisers ‘should be jailed’, says Ashley

Mike Ashley in Sports Direct warehouseImage copyright PA
Image caption Mike Ashley owns more than 60% of Sports Direct

Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley has lashed out after Debenhams bondholders cleared the way for a restructuring which could see shareholders’ stakes wiped out.

“If there were any justice in the world the majority of the advisors would be put in prison,” he said.

Mr Ashley, who owns almost 30% of Debenhams, is vying to take control of the struggling department store chain.

He wants to install himself as boss and take control in exchange for providing Debenhams with a much-needed loan.

But on Thursday, a majority of the chain’s bondholders voted to change the terms of some of their bonds, moving Debenhams closer to a £200m refinancing.

“Now the results of the vote are known… I think that if there were any justice in the world the majority of the advisors would be put in prison,” said Mr Ashley.

Accountancy and audit firm KPMG, which has been advising Debenhams, declined to comment.

Shares in Debenhams, which had surged on Wednesday after Debenhams said it noted that Sports Direct was considering a £61.4m takeover offer, were down more than 25% at about 2p per share at the close of the markets on Thursday.

Sports Direct said on Friday that it was still considering its Debenhams bid.

Wipe out

Debenhams is expected to continue to favour either a debt-for-equity swap or a pre-pack administration – an insolvency procedure in which a firm arranges to sell its assets to a buyer before appointing administrators to facilitate the sale.

Both options would lead to existing investors losing their holdings in the company.

Sports Direct is the biggest Debenhams shareholder, with a 29.7% stake. Brandes Investment Partners, Odey Asset Management and retail conglomerate Landmark Group are also significant shareholders.

A company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to speed up store closures and rent reductions could also be part of the plans, or come at a later stage.

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