Meanwhile, Ashley has continued with his wheeling and dealing in the U.K. retail market, acquiring an 11 percent stake in House of Fraser, one of the major British department store chains, from Sir Tom Hunter, the founder of the former Sports Division chain. He did so just before a Chinese conglomerate, Sunpower Group, agreed to purchase the remaining 89 percent interest last week in a deal that values House of Fraser at a total of around £480 million (€583.42m-$806.00m).
According to reports, Ashley and Hunter may have broken an agreement for rights of first refusal with this transaction, with Ashley perhaps hoping to make a capital gain by selling his shares to Sunpower. House of Fraser's executive chairman, Don McCarthy, who was also a minority shareholder, plans to resign after the transaction is completed, probably in about four months.
Prior to the disclosure of his latest financial maneuvers, Sports Direct International reported on April 8 that Ashley's investment vehicle, Mash Holding, had sold 24 million shares in the group for £223 million (€271.05m-$374.45m) to Goldman Sachs, which was planning to resell them to institutional investors. The divestiture reduced Ashley's shareholding in Sports Direct by 4.0 percentage points to 57.7 percent. The announcement was made a few days after Sports Direct announced its decision to cancel a general meeting where its other shareholders would have been asked to decide on a supplemental executive bonus scheme in Ashley's favor based on the attainment of certain financial targets by 2016 (see the previous issue of SGI Europe).