Ashley offloads a £100m stake in Sports Direct

Kasmira Jefford
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SHARES in Sports Direct fell six per cent yesterday after founder Mike Ashley sold £100m of his majority stake in the sports retailer, taking the market by surprise.

Ashley sold 25m shares at 400p, a seven per cent discount to Monday’s closing price, in an accelerated bookbuilding run by Goldman Sachs.

The book was two times covered in less than two hours of the offer being launched on Monday evening.

It is the first time the Newcastle United owner has sold down his shareholding since he floated the company in 2007 at a price of 300p, netting him £929m.

Sports Direct gave no reason for Ashley’s decision to sell down part of his stake, although City experts highlighted that there have been calls in the past for Ashley to offload shares to raise the liquidity in the stock.

He has agreed to a one-year lock-up of his remaining shares. With a stake of almost 65 per cent, it was unlikely Ashley was calling the top of the market, Panmure Gordon analyst Philip Dorgan said.

The sale also comes amid rumours that Ashley is interested in making a bid for House of Fraser or the collapsed retail chain Republic.

But analysts said he did not need the money and would be more likely to bid for assets through Sports Direct.

The group, which owns Lilywhites as well as the Dunlop and Slazenger brands, has seen shares soar by more than 40 per cent this year, benefiting from the demise of rivals, a growing online presence and a motivated staff due to a lucrative bonus scheme.

The FTSE 250 firm posted a 23 per cent rise in quarterly profit last week and said it was certain to reach its full-year earnings target of £270m.



Goldman Sachs carried out an accelerated book build on Monday evening to sell Mike Ashleys’s 25m Sports Direct shares, which the bank acquired from the sports retailer’s founder in a so-called bought deal.

Leading the team were Anthony Gutman, co-head of UK investment banking and Giacomo Ciampolini, managing director of the US bank’s equity capital markets division.

They were joined by Alex Watkins, vice president in Goldman’s equity capital markets team.

Gutman, a rising star in M&A, was promoted to co-head of the UK investment banking division along with top deal maker Mark Sorrell to replace Julian Metherell in 2011. He became a partner in November last year.

An Oxford history graduate and qualified corporate lawyer, Gutman joined Goldman Sachs as a managing director in the consumer retail group in 2007. He was poached from Citigroup where he made his name as a leisure banker, advising Dubai International Capital on the £1bn sale of the waxworks museum Madam Tussauds in 2007.

In October last year he was involved in advising UK credit-checking firm Experian in a deal to take full control of São Paulo-based data provider Serasa. Goldman Sachs also worked on the float of Betfair in 2010, which included Gutman in the team.