In Brief

Mike Ashley in court over £15m boozy pub 'banter'

Court told Sports Direct founder vomited into fireplace after drinking game

Details of Sports Direct senior management meetings said to be effectively pub "lock-ins" have been revealed during a hearing at the High Court, reports The Guardian.

The claims are part of a legal claim against the company's founder Mike Ashley over a £15m deal that banker Jeff Blue claims was agreed during a pub meeting and then subsequently reneged on.

Blue, a former Merrill Lynch banker and strategic development director at the sportswear firm, claims that at a "boozy meeting at the Horse and Groom pub near Sports Direct's Oxford Street store in 2013", he was promised the cash if he could get the company's share price above £8.

This was achieved on 25 February 2014 and he was paid a £1m bonus the following May.

Ashley has dismissed the conversation as "banter" during a social event at which a "considerable amount of alcohol was drunk".

His lawyers argue no such deal was agreed and that the £1m bonus was not a downpayment on any larger sum.

David Cavender told Justice Leggatt Blue's claim was an "opportunistic try-on".

Blue's legal team say such meetings were commonplace for Ashley and Sports Direct and so the location and circumstances of the conversation were no barrier to a formal agreement.

At one, Ashley allegedly challenged a junior analyst to a drinking game that ended with the billionaire vomiting into the pub fireplace after consuming a dozen pints of beer and vodka chasers.

He is also said to have regularly "expressed his 'boredom and frustration' with City figures by lying under the table to 'have a nap'".

Of the specific occasion in question, Blue said Ashley was "making decisions in regards to player transfers on behalf of Newcastle United" during the evening.

Ashley is due to take the stand tomorrow.

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