- Ashley believed deal was done to buy BHS after administration
- Sports Direct founder claims “extreme” time pressure stopped deal in days prior to chain’s collapse
- Sir Philip Green denied he blocked Ashley deal for BHS going ahead
Mike Ashley was under the impression he had struck a deal to acquire BHS after it had gone into administration, it has emerged.
In a letter to MP Iain Wright, co-chair of the MP-led inquiry into the collapse of the chain, Ashley claims a deal was struck during a meeting with Sir Philip Green, administrator Duff & Phelps and other Arcadia executives on April 27 – two days after BHS went into administration.
“Our understanding when we left the meeting was that we had an agreed deal, which was to be executed on Friday 13 May, 2016,” the Sports Direct founder wrote.
“Following the meeting an SPA [Sale and Purchase Agreement] was sent out by DLA on behalf of Duff & Phelps which was duly returned within 48 hours. However, as you know, the deal did not happen.”
Ashley said the “rescue package” would have saved the “vast majority” of jobs and stores at BHS.
The revelation raises fresh questions over why Ashley was unable to acquire the beleaguered department store chain. However, reports suggested the billionaire had tabled a “low-ball” offer prior to BHS collapsing.
On Monday it emerged that the Sports Direct tycoon had made a third approach with a view to buying up to 80 of the department chain’s stores and the brand name.
Sir Philip Green this week denied claims made by BHS’s most recent owner, Dominic Chappell, that he had blocked Sports Direct buying the 88 year-old chain.
In Ashley’s letter he also argues that his last-minute bid for BHS in the days leading up to its administration was not successful owing to “extreme time pressure”.
Ashley identifies two “major obstacles” – getting consent from the Pension Protection Fund and Pensions Regulator and needing Arcadia to “subordinate” an outstanding loan to BHS “in favour of our proposed investment”.
The mogul was asked to give evidence to the joint Business, Innovation and Skills and Work and Pensions committees inquiry after he appeared in Parliament as part of a separate probe into working practices at Sports Direct. Ashley is not expected to give evidence to the BHS committee in person.