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Mike Ashley brands claim he struck £15m deal in pub as ‘nonsense’

Sports Direct owner says he can’t remember what was said on night out.

Newcastle United owner and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has told a High Court judge that a finance expert who says he reneged on a £15 million deal struck during a night of heavy drinking in a pub is talking “nonsense”.

Investment banker Jeffrey 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.

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

He told Mr Justice Leggatt on Wednesday: “It’s nonsense.”

Mr Justice Leggatt began analysing evidence at a High Court trial in London on Monday.

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Jeffrey Blue believes Mike Ashley reneged on a deal and is suing the Newcastle United owner for £14m (Victoria Jones/PA)

The judge has heard the dispute between Mr Blue and Mr Ashley relates to a conversation in a central London pub.

Mr Blue says Mr Ashley made a promise during a meeting in the Horse And Groom four years ago.

Mr Ashley told Mr Justice Leggatt, in a witness statement, how he met Mr Blue and three other finance specialists at the pub 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,” Mr Ashley told the judge.

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

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Sports Direct was founded by Mike Ashley in 1982 (Joe Giddens/PA)

“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.

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Mike Ashley watching Newcastle United, the club he owns (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“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.”

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