Ashley against sale of Freespirit
Sports Direct, Blacks Leisure's largest shareholder, has threatened to oust its management board if it disposes of its Freespirit chain.

Sports Direct, which owns almost 30 per cent of Blacks Leisure, has written a number of letters to the board seeking to prevent any potential sale of Freespirit.

It has threatened the requisition of an extraordinary general meeting at which it will propose to remove the board of directors and appoint a replacement and cancel any proposed sale of its surf and ski business.

Blacks Leisure said that Sports Direct was acting without due regard to the interests of other shareholders and that it would continue its strategic review of the Freespirit chain. It began the review earlier this month.

Sports Direct deputy chairman and founder Mike Ashley was linked to a bid for Blacks Leisure earlier this year. However, he said in February that he had no immediate plans to bid for the company, ruling him out of launching an offer until the end of July, under Takeover Panel rules.

Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner said action by the board might enable Ashley to bid earlier. He said: 'We agree with Ashley's view about the sale of Freespirit, because this is the market leader in the fastest growth area of the sports-related market. However, we would oppose the removal of the board.'