Debenhams chairman tells Mike Ashley to make a bid for the chain amid loan row
The chairman of Debenhams has told Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley to make a bid for the entire department store chain if he is serious about taking control of the company.
Sir Ian Cheshire today issued an ultimatum to the tycoon, who holds a 30 per cent stake in the struggling department store, amid a bitter dispute about the running of the business.
“If he comes through the front door with an offer that we can recommend, we are not ignoring him,” Cheshire told the Mail on Sunday.
“We’re a public company. If you want to make an offer for the other 70 per cent you don’t own, then you’re free at any time.”
The comments come after Ashley hit out at the Debenhams board for rejecting his offer of a £40m loan.
In a letter to chief executive Sergio Bucher, Ashley slammed the chain’s board members for not agreeing to his proposal of the interest-free loan in exchange for a greater stake in the company.
The offer was widely interpreted as an attempt by Ashley to take control of the business.
But Cheshire hit back at the retail billionaire, saying the company was happy to consider an offer for a full takeover.
“We are not Little Englanders that have to defend our borders,” he said. “This is a grown up bunch of people doing the right thing for the broader shareholders and stakeholders, including our 25,000 staff.”
Debenhams recently reported a loss of £491.5m in its annual report, the worst in its history, as the retailer struggles under tough high street conditions.
Ashley, whose Sport Direct Group also owns House of Fraser, has called on politicians to offer a helping hand to brick-and-mortar retailers.
Ashley could not be reached for comment.