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Mike Ashley steps up £180m Debenhams legal battle

Billionaire Mike Ashley escalates bitter legal spat over collapse of department store giant Debenhams

Fight: Mike Ashley is heading for court

Billionaire Mike Ashley has escalated a bitter legal spat over the collapse of department store giant Debenhams.

The Sports Direct founder is heading for court after his £180million stake in the retailer became worthless when the chain went bankrupt two years ago. 

The group’s demise ended a 242-year stint on the UK high street with the loss of 124 stores and thousands of jobs. 

Now a trial over the collapse of the company will take place in May, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Legal papers filed by lawyers for Ashley’s Frasers Group – which owns House of Fraser and Flannels – accuse administrators at FRP Advisory of a ‘criminal offence’ in their dealings with him. 

His legal team allege FRP Advisory’s Geoff Rowley and Alastair Massey ‘abused’ their powers by ‘stifling investigation into the affairs’ of Debenhams.

The court hearing will be the latest chapter in Ashley’s long-running campaign following the loss of his 30 per cent stake in Debenhams. He tried repeatedly to take control of the business before and after its failure, including the offer of a £150million loan to bail the business out. 

Rights to the Debenhams brand and its website were sold to online retailer Boohoo in 2021. 

Ashley has wanted an independent expert to investigate the full details of Debenhams’ downfall. 

At the heart of the case is a contested settlement between Ashley and the administrators over the mogul’s purchase of fixtures and fittings in empty Debenhams stores. 

Part of the agreement was that the businessman could not sue those involved in the company’s collapse, which he says was ‘illegal and unenforceable’. He wants the agreement set aside. 

The entrepreneur has previously initiated other High Court applications over the collapse and has made complaints to MPs and regulatory bodies about the company. Last night, a City source said: ‘He has been agitating for a long time for people to look into these events and no one has been very interested.’ 

Defendants also include Silver Point Capital, a Connecticut-based hedge fund, which acquired Debenhams in 2019. 

Despite Frasers’ losses in Debenhams, Frasers has flourished. This week it will rejoin the FTSE100 for the first time in six years. 

Frasers and the defendants were contacted for comment.

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk