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Judge slams Ashley for the use of 'muscular tactics'

By John Aston

Published 23/01/2016

Rangers shareholder: Mike Ashley
Rangers shareholder: Mike Ashley

A senior judge has condemned the "intimidatory, muscular tactics" used by Mike Ashley's sportswear company Sports Direct in a failed bid to have Rangers chairman Dave King punished for an alleged breach of a gagging order.

In the latest chapter of a bitter and costly dispute that has embroiled the Ibrox club, lawyers acting for Mr Ashley and his company asked Mr Justice Peter Smith, sitting in the High Court, London, to find Mr King guilty of contempt of court.

They accused Mr King of breaching a confidentiality undertaking contained in an order made by a judge in June 2015.

The breach was alleged to have occurred when Mr King gave an interview in July 2015 and revealed the existence of a meeting and discussions relating to commercial contracts between Sports Direct and Rangers.

Dismissing the contempt application as an abuse of process, the judge said the "whole proceedings from first to last were designed to intimidate rather than to seek proper sanctions for an alleged breach".

The judge said on Friday: "These kind of muscular tactics of using a threat of committal is something which the courts should deplore."

The company and Mr Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United, had already failed in as bid to persuade the judge that Mr King should be jailed over the issue.

After the latest ruling, the judge ordered Sports Direct International Plc (SDI) to pay Mr King's legal costs on an indemnity basis - the highest scale possible - "as a mark of my disapproval of the way in which the claim was brought".

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