Sports Direct's High Street Takeover Takes Bizarre Lie Detector Twist

BRITAIN-COURT-ASHLEY

BRITAIN-COURT-ASHLEY

The struggling giant has been locked in talks over recent weeks with Sports Direct over a rescue package which would see Mike Ashley installed as Debenhams' CEO and £150m pumped into the ailing firm's coffers.

Street in Arc leading up to Debenhams.

If neither is fulfilled by Monday evening, the retailer is likely to go into a pre-pack administration, wiping out Sports Direct's stake and all other shareholders. "Ashley accused the Debenhams bosses of acting out a "sustained programme of falsehoods and denials" in their attempts to keep him out of their boardroom and executive bathrooms, adding that ".misrepresentations were made to induce Sports Direct into signing a non-disclosure agreement, locking them out of any ability to trade in the bonds or equity of Debenhams".

The company said that Ashley had taken his own lie detector test, after the two companies clashed about events in a meeting, and said: "Mike Ashley's score for example was so significantly high as to be considered rare in comparison to others".

The tycoon made the challenge after commissioning his own lie detector test to prove he was telling the truth about the details of a meeting with the retailer's board members.

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Mr Ashley has a near-30pc stake in the department store but faces wipeout if the department store presses ahead with a £200m (€232m) refinancing plan announced in March.

Under the proposal, £101 million is to be drawn down immediately to allow restructuring, which will include store closures and rent reductions.

Ashley has until close of business today to make an offer for Debenhams.

When it set the deadline, Debenhams' board stipulated that Sports Direct must either launch a fully-funded bid, with facility to provide working capital and pay off its existing debts, or agree to underwrite a rights issue on terms agreeable to its lenders.

In a letter to the Debenhams board dated April 5, Sports Direct said it would be willing to underwrite the group with 150 million pounds in cash if Ashley was named as CEO, the FT said.

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