Mike Ashley, the former head and majority owner of Frasers Group, is preparing to take legal action against the administrators of UK department store giant Debenhams. The billionaire founder of Sports Direct has been demanding answers regarding the downfall of Debenhams for quite some time, and his case will finally be heard in court in May of next year.

The legal papers filed by Frasers Group’s lawyers accuse administrators at FRP Advisory of a “criminal offence” in their dealings with Ashley. The allegations suggest that Geoff Rowley and Alastair Massey of FRP Advisory abused their powers by obstructing the investigation into Debenhams’ affairs.

The dispute between Ashley and the administrators dates back to two years ago when his £180 million 30% stake in Debenhams became worthless as the retailer went bankrupt. This resulted in the closure of 124 stores and the loss of numerous jobs. Ashley had made multiple attempts to gain control of Debenhams both before and after its collapse, even offering a £150 million loan to rescue the business.

In 2021, the rights to the Debenhams brand and website were sold to online retailer Boohoo. However, the current legal case focuses on a disputed settlement between Ashley and the administrators regarding his purchase of fixtures and fittings from empty Debenhams stores. As part of the agreement, Ashley agreed not to sue those involved in the company’s collapse, a provision he now claims is “illegal and unenforceable.” He aims to have the agreement set aside.

Apart from the administrators, the defendants in the case also include US-based hedge fund Silver Point Capital, which acquired Debenhams in 2019. Both Frasers Group and the defendants have remained silent on the matter so far.

Mike Ashley’s decision to pursue legal action against the administrators of Debenhams sheds light on the ongoing controversy surrounding the collapse of the renowned retailer. As one of the UK’s leading department stores, its demise had a significant impact on the retail industry and the thousands of employees who lost their livelihoods. With the court case scheduled for next year, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be and whether Ashley will finally obtain the answers he has been seeking.

(links: Reuters, The Mail on Sunday)