Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s sportswear empire has sold its near 5% stake in Debenhams just days after making the share swoop.
Sports Direct International has instead struck a complex financial arrangement giving it the option to take a 6.6% stake in Debenhams amid speculation he is lining up celebrity-sponsored sportswear ranges for the chain.
Sports Direct raised eyebrows on Monday when it emerged the group had bought a 4.6% stake in Debenhams, worth around £46m, following the store’s recent profits warning after disappointing Christmas trading. It said it would allow the companies to consider ways to work together. The group stressed it still wants to “explore options” over how the two can work together and is “looking forward to meeting with Debenhams’ senior management team in the near future”.
It added: “Sports Direct reiterates its intention to be a supportive stakeholder and create value in the interests of both Sports Direct’s and Debenhams’ shareholders.”
Mr Ashley, who founded Sports Direct and still owns 62% of the group, wants to introduce ranges endorsed by the likes of Sports Direct brand ambassadors double Olympic gold medal rower James Cracknell and tennis players John McEnroe and Pat Cash, according to a national newspaper.