Mike Ashley dismisses claim he offered expert £15m as nonsense

Mike Ashley (left) Image copyright PA
Image caption Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley (left) arrives at the High Court to give evidence

Billionaire Mike Ashley said a claim that he agreed to pay a finance expert £15m during a drinking session in a pub is "nonsense".

Investment banker Jeffrey Blue said the Newcastle United owner promised to pay him £15m if he increased Sports Direct's share price to £8 each.

He was paid £1m but is suing Mr Ashley for the rest at London's High Court.

Mr Ashley said it "would be obvious" to anyone at the pub where they were drinking that he "was not serious".

Mr Ashley told Mr Justice Leggatt, in a witness statement, he met Mr Blue and three other finance specialists at the Horse And Groom pub in central London in January 2013.

'A lot of banter'

"When we got to the pub we started drinking heavily at the bar and consumed a lot of alcohol during the evening," Mr Ashley told the judge.

"We must have had four or five rounds of drinks in the first hour.

"I can't remember the detail of conversations but I do remember that we had a lot of drinks and a lot of banter.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Finance expert Jeffrey Blue claims he was promised £15m for pushing up the price of shares

"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."

Mr Ashley said the group went to another bar afterwards but could not remember which one.

He said: "I find it incredible that Mr Blue is actually suggesting that I made a binding agreement for £15m.

"It's nonsense.

"If I did say to Mr Blue that I would pay him £15m, it would be obvious to everyone, including Mr Blue, that I wasn't being serious."

'Decisions in bath'

Mr Ashley said the inference that Sports Direct had senior management meetings in a pub was "100% incorrect".

He said he occasionally made decisions in a pub.

"Definitely not as a norm," he said. "Otherwise I would have to live in a pub."

He added: "I take business decisions all day every day, from home, from the bath."

Mr Ashley told the judge: "Serious, serious decisions are not done on drunken nights out."

What Mr Blue called "senior management meetings" at pubs was actually just a "drink after work", Mr Ashley said.

He also said "going for a drink" was "what we do after work" and Shirebrook, Derbyshire, where Sports Direct is based, was a "very boring, lonely place".

The case continues.

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