NEWS
05/07/2017 18:26 BST | Updated 05/07/2017 20:06 BST

Mike Ashley Hits Back At 'Nonsense' Claims By Banker In High Court Trial

Newcastle United owner and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has hit back after being sued by an investment banker who told a High Court judge that he staged business meetings in pubs.

Mr Ashley said Jeffrey Blue's claim was "nonsense" and he said he was "really pissed off".

He said he was not "Obi-Wan Kenobi running the Death Star" and he did not take "serious decisions" on "drunken nights out".

The 52-year-old businessman was giving evidence on the third day of a High Court trial in London.

Mr Blue says Mr Ashley promised to pay him £15 million, if he used his expertise to increase Sports Direct's share price to £8 a share, during a meeting in a central London pub.

He says Mr Ashley paid only £1 million and he wants £14 million damages.

Mr Ashley, who referred to Mr Blue as "that liar", denies the claim.

He says the £1 million he paid Mr Blue was not related to any agreement allegedly made in a pub.

Mr Justice Leggatt began analysing evidence at the High Court trial on Monday.

The judge has heard the dispute between Mr Blue and Mr Ashley centres on a conversation in the Horse and Groom pub four years ago.

Mr Blue has told the judge that Mr Ashley is a "serious businessman".

He said the work ethic at Sports Direct was "like nothing else I have ever seen".

But he said Mr Ashley sometimes did business "in unorthodox ways and in unusual venues".

Mr Blue told Mr Justice Leggatt how Mr Ashley vomited into a fireplace after a Sports Direct senior management meeting which was "effectively a pub lock-in".

He said Mr Ashley would also nap under tables at "boring" meetings.

The trial is due to end next week.

Mr Ashley outlined his case in a written witness statement before being questioned by barrister Jeffrey Chapman QC, who is leading Mr Blue's legal team.

 

Mr Ashley told Mr Justice Leggatt, in a witness statement, how he met Mr Blue and three other finance specialists at the Horse and Groom in January 2013.

"When we got to the pub we started drinking heavily at the bar and consumed a lot of alcohol during the evening," said Mr Ashley.

"We must have had four or five rounds of drinks in the first hour.

"I can't remember the details of the conversations that we had in the pub as it was a heavy night of drinking."

He said he recalled talk about football.

"I can't remember the detail of these conversations but I do remember that we had a lot of drinks and a lot of banter," said Mr Ashley

"We were pulling each other's legs about what hypothetical value my shares would be worth 'on paper' at different share prices.

"It was a fun night, as it was intended to be, and everyone was on good form.

"We got on well, so much so, that we ended up going out after the pub to a bar in the West End where we stayed until the early morning.

"I had drunk so much that I can't remember which bar we went to.

"I don't remember Mr Blue joining us and I can't remember what time he left."

Mr Ashley added: "I find it incredible that Mr Blue is actually suggesting that I made a binding agreement for £15 million.

"It's nonsense.

"If I did say to Mr Blue that I would pay him £15 million if he could increase (Sports Direct's) share price to £8, it would be obvious to everyone, including Mr Blue, that I wasn't being serious."

The hearing continues on Thursday.

Mr Ashley said he had not wanted to go to the Horse and Groom meeting.

"I probably would rather put needles in my eyes than go to a thing like that," he said.

"Meet-and-greet soiree? Sort of thing like having to go to a school do for your kids. Absolutely horrendous."