Debenhams and House of Fraser merger mooted, director says

13 Septembre, 2018, 17:51 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • House of Fraser

He was quoted as telling journalists that a merger "had been discussed".

But he added the company still had its "hands full" with integrating House of Fraser.

It came in a brief statement before the Sports Direct annual shareholder's meeting in London, alongside a trading update that the chain expects to achieve an improvement in earnings of between five and 15 per cent, excluding the acquisition of House of Fraser.

"It would be hard subdividing a building like that", he said, "but we are absolutely determined to secure a positive future for that site, whatever that may be".

Mr Bentley later said: "I was asked a general question about whether or not we discuss our strategic investments and, in particular, Debenhams to which I replied in the positive".

His comments were reported shortly after the unexpected announcement ahead of the AGM that Keith Hellawell was stepping down as chairman immediately.

The board of Sports Direct has considered combining House of Fraser with its department store rival Debenhams, in an admission that will spark speculation of a full takeover bid.

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Ashley thanked Hellawell and Bentley for their "valuable service and significant contributions" and insisted his strategy to transform House of Fraser into the "Harrods of the high street" would be a "game changer".

It is not clear whether Hellawell, a controversial figure who has been under pressure from major shareholder advisory groups, had the support of independent shareholders who had voted before the meeting, because the motions to reappoint both Hellawell and Bentley were withdrawn just before the meeting.

"Having overseen significant improvements in the working practices and corporate governance of the company, which includes a refresh of the board, now is the right time for me to step aside", Mr Hellawell said.

"I have every confidence that the group will continue to go from strength to strength", he said.

Lawyers representing the Financial Reporting Council had "characterised" Sports Direct's approach as "one of obfuscation and delay verging on obstruction", and Mr Justice Arnold says that criticism is "entirely justified". He is also a non-executive director of Fulham Football Club.

Glass Lewis, the investor advisory group, accused the board of "poor governance" and urged investors to vote against the re-election of Hellawell, Bentley and Ashley.

Newcastle United owner and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has been dealt a blow by a High Court judge.

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