The boss of Derbyshire-based retailer Sports Direct has branded the investment banker who is suing him a “liar” that is talking “nonsense”.
Finance expert Jeffrey Blue has sued Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley after claiming he is owed £14 million.
Mr Ashley disputes the claim and a judge is analysing evidence at a High Court trial in London.
During the hearing on Wednesday, Mr Ashley said Mr Blue’s claims were “nonsense” and told Mr Justice Leggatt that he was not “Obi-Wan Kenobi running the Death Star”.
The dispute between Mr Ashley, who owns Newcastle United and runs Sports Direct, and Mr Blue relates to a conversation that happened in a London pub in 2013.
Mr Justice Leggatt heard that Mr Blue says Mr Ashley made a promise to pay him £15 million during a meeting in a London watering hole called the Horse & Groom.
Mr Blue claims he was paid just £1 million, despite being promised £14 million more, if he used his expertise to increase Sports Direct’s share price to £8 a share.
Mr Ashley, who referred to Mr Blue as “that liar”, told Mr Justice Leggatt, in a witness statement, how he met Mr Blue and three other finance specialists at the pub in January 2013.
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“When we got to the pub we started drinking heavily at the bar and consumed a lot of alcohol during the evening,” he said.
“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.
“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. 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.
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“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.”
Earlier this week Mr Blue told the judge how he saw Mr Ashley vomit into a fireplace after a Sports Direct senior management meeting which was “effectively a pub lock-in” and that the businessman “sometimes does business in unorthodox ways and in unusual venues”.
He has told how the Sports Direct boss would also nap under tables at “boring” meetings.
Responding to the claims Mr Ashley told a lawyer asking questions on behalf of Mr Blue that he did not stage business meetings in pubs as a norm.
Source: Derby Telegraph