His football team may be struggling to rack up points, but Sports Direct Mike Ashley’s retail portfolio continues to amass stakes.

The Newcastle United chairman has today increased his interest in Debenhams – and converted half of his 21% stake in the department store business into shares.

With the maverick tycoon also holding stakes in the likes of Game and French Connection, analysts and investors alike are again trying to fathom his motives.

Could it be that Ashley is ultimately targeting a full takeover bid for Debenhams?

Its share price has slumped to a new low of 41.25p – and a 30% share of voting rights would pave the way for Ashley to launch a mandatory takeover offer.

Having seen some of Sports Direct’s newer stores – incorporating the retailer’s array of brands in a much more appealing department store style format – Ashley could prove an unlikely weapon in the arsenal of Sergio Bucher and Sir Ian Cheshire as they attempt to transform Debenhams’ fortunes.

On the subject of department stores, the Pensions Regulator said today that it was prosecuting former BHS owner Dominic Chappell, after he failed to hand over documentation during the watchdog’s investigation into BHS’ sale – a saga that may yet have a few more miles left to run.

Quote of the day

“The health of the customer base is the health of the business: if you have customer loyalty, sales look after themselves. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter if last month’s sales are good or bad, the foundations will start to crumble.”

Majestic Wine boss Rowan Gormley on the importance of customer loyalty

Today in numbers


The year that Recreate Yourself, the latest business to be acquired by The Hut Group, was founded.


The jump in sales posted by John Lewis in the week to August 19, when revenues hit £77m.

Tomorrow’s agenda

Embattled Laura Ashley unveils its full-year results tomorrow. Investors and analysts alike won’t be expecting much to cheer, following two profit warnings in just six months.  

Luke Tugby, head of content