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Mike Ashley wins legal battle over Sport Direct share ‘deal’ struck in pub

Jeffrey Blue claimed he was owed £15m if he could double the company’s share value.

Newcastle United owner and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has won a High Court battle with an investment banker over a £15 million deal allegedly made in a London pub.

Investment banker Jeffrey Blue told a judge that Mr Ashley promised to pay him £15 million if he used his expertise to double Sports Direct’s share price to £8 a share.

He said Mr Ashley paid only £1 million and he wanted £14 million damages.

Mr Ashley denied the claim and said Mr Blue was talking “nonsense”.

Mr Justice Leggatt analysed evidence at a High Court trial in London earlier this month.

The judge heard that the dispute centred on a conversation in the Horse and Groom pub four years ago.

Ruling in Mr Ashley’s favour on Wednesday, the judge said no-one would have thought what was said in the pub was “serious”.

Mr Ashley was not in court to hear the judge deliver his ruling, but his lawyers said he had won a “comprehensive” victory.

He said he had met Mr Blue and three other finance specialists at the pub and “consumed a lot of alcohol”.

“I can’t remember the details of the conversations that we had in the pub as it was a heavy night of drinking,” Mr Ashley had said.

“I do remember that we had a lot of drinks and a lot of banter.

“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.”

He said he paid Mr Blue, who he called “Jeffers”, £1 million for “other deals” unrelated to the night in the Horse and Groom.

Mr Blue told the judge that Mr Ashley was a “serious businessman”.

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Jeffrey Blue received £1m from Mike Ashley but wanted another £14m (Nick Ansell/PA)

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”.

He told how Mr Ashley once vomited into a fireplace after a senior management meeting that was “effectively a pub lock-in” and said the businessman would take naps under tables at “boring” meetings.

Mr Justice Leggatt told lawyers, at the end of the trial, that the case had been “a lot more interesting than some”.

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