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Debenhams’ shares jump on Mike Ashley takeover plan

Written by: Danielle Levy
Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has launched a plan to oust all but one member of Debenhams’ board and appoint himself to lead the business.

Ashley has requisitioned a general meeting at Debenhams calling for these changes, which if approved would see him carrying out an executive role and stepping down as chief executive of Sports Direct. Ashley currently has a 30% stake in the department store chain.

The retail tycoon wants to build a strong board and management team. He would be replaced at Sports Direct by deputy chief financial officer Chris Wootton.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Debenhams said it was “disappointed” that Sports Direct has taken this action. It noted that it continues to engage with stakeholders, including Sports Direct, to restructure its balance sheet and is in advanced discussions to address future funding requirements.

In January, Ashley ousted Debenhams’ chairman Ian Cheshire and chief executive Sergio Bucher, leaving the retailer with a six-strong board. Ashley is proposing to sack five of the board members but would retain Rachel Osborne, chief financial officer, who was appointed in September of last year.

Ashley’s plan follows another profit warning from Debenhams earlier this week, which saw the retailer acknowledge that turnaround costs had been greater than expected.

Investors responded positively to Ashley’s coup attempt. At 4.35pm, Debenhams’ shares were up 16.6% at 3.53p per share.

Meanwhile, Sports Direct’s shares were up 0.57% at £2.65 per share.

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