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Can Mike Ashley rescue BHS?


Mike Ashley has claimed that he is working on a bid for the BHS estate.

The owner and founder of Sports Direct has said that he is planning a bid for the entire BHS estate, with the intention to protect the jobs of all BHS employees and keep all branches open.

“Any continuing interest that we have in BHS would be on the basis that we would anticipate that there would not be any job losses, including jobs at head office, and that all stores would remain open,” Ashley said to the Telegraph.

Ashley was in talks with Dominic Chappell, the leader of the Retail Acquisitions consortium that acquired BHS from Sir Philip Green, before the high street retailer fell into administration last week, opting not to make a bid before the threshold was passed.

Although he is not the only interested party, with a number of potential buyers eyeing parts of the BHS estate, Ashley is one of the few who has suggested acquiring the entire chain. Anyone wishing to take on BHS in its entirety would inherit the £1.3bn debt and £571m pension deficit that led to the chain’s collapse.

Though a big sports fan, Ashley’s empire is diversified beyond Sports Direct, with the clothing chain, Flannels being among his assets. Ashley once considered buying Debenhams, where Sports Direct currently operates concessions.

The positive press for his move for BHS casts Ashley in a much more positive light than he has been used to in recent months. Last year an investigation by the Guardian uncovered that Sports Direct had been underpaying workers in its Shirebrook warehouse, after which Ashley was called to answer before MPs in the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee.

Uncertainties regarding Sir Philip Green’s role in the downfall of BHS persist, with two MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee claiming Lady Green should also be questioned in parliament. Chappell has also been called as a witness.

Published on Tuesday 03 May by Philip Gallagher

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