Ashley in upmarket bid

MIKE Ashley’s Sports Direct is close to buying an 80 per cent stake in two of Scottish billionaire Sir Tom Hunter’s fashion retail chains, in a deal valued at about £7m.

Sports Direct is looking to buy the holdings in USC and Cruise, chains that specialise in higher-end consumer fashion, from Sir Tom’s private equity firm West Coast Capital.

Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United football club, would use the chains to create a new upmarket division of his group.

Sir Tom is expected to keep hold of a significant stake in both his firms, as well as act as chairman. He will also provide strategic advice to Ashley.

It is expected that the deal will be formally announced by the end of the week. Ewan Hunter, a spokesperson for Sir Tom, told City A.M.: “We’re in negotiations and it’s very close to concluding.”