March 21, 2019 / 10:23 AM / a month ago

Mike Ashley steps up bid for control of Debenhams

FILE PHOTO: Mike Ashley leads journalists on a factory tour after the sportswear retailer Sports Direct's AGM, at the company's headquarters in Shirebrook, Britain, September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Staples/File Photo

(Reuters) - Billionaire Mike Ashley ramped up his campaign to take charge of Debenhams Plc , again urging the ailing department store chain to appoint him to the board and replace most of the directors.

Sports Direct International, which is owned by Ashley, on Thursday called for Debenhams to hold a general meeting in a bid to remove all the current directors except Rachel Osborne.

Ashley, one of Britain’s most famous and unorthodox businessmen, launched a coup earlier this month to take charge of Debenhams, in which he owns a nearly 30 percent stake.

As part of the plan, he offered to step down from his role as Sports Direct’s boss.

Ashley, who owns Newcastle United soccer club, made his fortune from building retailer Sports Direct and has recently snapped up stakes in other struggling chains hit by more people shopping online and weak consumer spending.

Last week, Sports Direct offered Debenhams an interest-free loan in return for a further 5 percent stake, just as the department store chain was on the brink of securing funds to fend off Ashley’s bid to take charge of the company.

Debenhams said that it would consider the 150 million pound unsecured loan offer.

Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Bernard Orr

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