Belfast Telegraph

Sports Direct and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley confirmed as buyer for Belfast city centre retail arcade

It's been confirmed that Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has bought a major retail site in the heart of Belfast city centre.

He's taking over Donegall Arcade, with his sports chain Sports Direct opening up at the former Curry's store.

It comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed the controversial businessman was in the process of buying the site.

But it's understood another similar retailer, Lifestyle Sports, had been due to take over the Curry's store before the sale of the building.

A spokesman for Sports Direct, said: "This has been an exciting decision for the company and we are looking forward to holding a central position in Belfast’s impressive retail offering. We believe that there is a gap in the market for our diverse product range which includes world famous brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma, Dunlop, and Slazenger. Our intention is to incorporate, where possible, the group’s new low cost gymnasium brand in future sites.

“Our strategy for the coming years is to expand further and open more sport and gym superstores. We recognise the opportunities which are open in the UK and Ireland and we will continue to explore other potential sites as we move forwards with these plans.”

Ryan Kee, director of retail agency at Lambert Smith Hampton, said: “We would like to firstly welcome Sports Direct to central Belfast, as they prepare to open their first store in the city centre. The addition of such a major retailer into this location sends a clear message of confidence in the market."

It's Mr Ashley's first major property deal in Northern Ireland, and it comes just weeks after it was revealed Ashley is on course to take over Irish discount department store Heatons, which has 10 stores in Northern Ireland.

Donegall Arcade was formerly owned by Dungannon developer Peter Dolan. But many of his company's loans were absorbed into the Republic's bad bank Nama, with debts transferred to US vulture fund Cerberus.

Mike Ashley's fortune is spread across his retail empire, along with his stake in Newcastle United.

He formed Sports Direct in 1982. It's a company which now boasts 500 stores across the world.

Belfast Telegraph Digital