Press reports have suggested that Ashley - who owns the Sports World and Lillywhites stores - was behind a series of unusually large trades in Blacks' shares yesterday afternoon.
The Financial Times said that two blocks of shares - 5.2 million and 7.29 million - equivalent to 30 per cent of Blacks, changed hands at 401p a share yesterday afternoon.
Blacks is due to report its first-half results on Thursday. The Independent said that it expected these figures to show that trading had been flat at best after an 'awful' summer.
The paper quoted one trading source as saying that a bid would 'trump the results' and that 'all the right people have been piling into Blacks'.
In trading this morning shares were down 8p to 423p.