Billionaire Mike Ashley’s retail empire balloons by a third in one year
Mike Ashley’s retail footprint has swollen by more than a third in the last year, following a spending spree in 2018 that saw the billionaire tycoon snap up some of Britain’s largest high street chains.
The Sports Direct owner, who is reportedly now in talks to add beleaguered music retailer HMV to his growing estate, bought House of Fraser for £90m in August and Evans Cycles for £8m in October.
Such deals have pushed up the size of Ashley’s retail portfolio to almost 30m square feet (sq ft), rising from just under 22m sq ft at the beginning of 2018, according to new figures from Colliers International/Radius Data Exchange/GOAD.
Research from Colliers also found that if the Newcastle United owner acquires HMV he would own or have a significant stake in more than 1,250 stores covering 30.5m sq ft, the equivalent of nearly 400 football pitches or 37 Buckingham Palaces.
|House of Fraser||56|
|Debenhams (29 per cent)||164|
|French Connection (27 per cent)||38|
|Game (25 per cent)||272|
"Mike Ashley’s actions may look counter-intuitive to what’s going on in today’s retail marketplace, but he’s playing a clever, considered game," said Paul Souber, co-head of UK Retail at Colliers International.
Souber added: "By investing in heritage brands and cherry-picking their best stores without taking on any of their debt, and then negotiating hard with landlords to broker agreements on his own terms, he’s advantageously strengthening his presence across the UK shopping scene."
Ashley currently owns more than 450 Sports Direct stores, as well as 56 House of Fraser outlets and 60 Evans Cycles. Along with his current assets, Ashley also owns stakes in Debenhams (29 per cent), French Connection (27 per cent) and Game (25 per cent), which totals 474 UK shops spanning more than 16m sq ft.
John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers International, said: "Every day we seem to read about a store closure or restructuring and there is no doubt that inflated business rate costs must take some of the blame. Current levels for the retail sector are unsustainable, particularly when other costs are also rising and there is increased competition from the online giants.
"House of Fraser, Debenhams, now HMV – it will be interesting to see who makes the next distressed announcement. The only thing we can predict is that someone will. And when this happens, I have no doubt that opportunists like Mike Ashley will capitalise on what’s left."