Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley intends to close all his stores in shopping centres owned by Intu because the retail property group has spurned new terms he has proposed on four House of Fraser sites.
The branches would shut when leases come up for expiry or break clauses kick in. According to Ashley, that would cost Intu – which last year generated retail income of £460m in total, more than £25m a year in lost rent and service charges.
Ashley said: “Intu has demonstrated it is unwilling to help retailers save stores and jobs. It is unrealistic for Intu to enjoy a long-term relationship with our retail businesses.”
Ashley bought House of Fraser out of administration in the summer, when he pledged to make it ‘the Harrods of the high street’.
Since acquiring House of Fraser, he has sought to negotiate better deals with landlords, but some have refused to do deals.
In September, Ashley lashed out at what he described as “greedy landlords” for hampering his plans to turn around the retailer and called on them to “help to save as many House of Fraser stores and jobs as possible on the great British high street”.
The Intu centres where Ashley hoped for relaxed terms, paying little or no rent on House of Fraser stores, are Lakeside, Nottingham, Norwich and Gateshead.
Intu is at present the takeover target of its deputy chair John Whittaker. This Friday is the deadline for him to make a move.