This year for secretive British billionaire Mike Ashley has gone from bad to worse after the headquarters of his £4 billion ($US6.1 billion) Sports Direct clothing empire was raided by the police.
The bargain sportswear clothing chain confirmed in an emailed statement to Business Insider that the Shirebrook, Derbyshire office was searched by the police today. However, the group insisted that detectives were investigating the conduct of several people that were previously employed by Glasgow Rangers, which is a football club that Ashley heavily invests in:
“The premises of Sports Direct at Shirebrook were visited by Police Scotland conducting an investigation relating to Glasgow Rangers FC and various persons previously employed by and or associated with Rangers.
“The police investigation is not directed at Sports Direct or at any of its directors or employees. The police were seeking documentation which might assist the investigation.
“Sports Direct has co-operated fully and will continue to co-operate in the provision of information that the police request.”
Police Scotland also just released confirmation of the raid but did not give anymore details: “We can confirm that officers carried out a search of property in Derbyshire. As this is a live inquiry it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”
The back story
Media-phobic Ashley owns Newcastle United football club but has got into trouble with competition authorities and politicians over his dealings with Rangers.
Ashley, owns 9% of Rangers (4% personally and 5% through his MASH holdings company), making him the second-largest shareholder in the group.
He was stopped from increasing his stake to 30% in December last year by the Scottish Football Association, citing a “conflict of interest.” His loans to the club, however, still gave him control over Rangers.
Out of £10 million ($US15.1 million) he loaned the club in January this year, £5 million ($US7.6 million) was used to pay back his own companies from an earlier £3 million loan ($US4.6 million).
He also installed several trusted business partners to the board: Derek Llambias, Paul Murray, John Gilligan and Barry Leach, the Easdale brothers and Derek Somners.
That crew was ousted in March by David King, who has the largest stake in Rangers, at 14.5%. King and the rest of the club then announced that they had referred a number of these executives to the police to investigate how £70 million ($US106 million) was spent over the past four years under British billionaire Mike Ashley and former owner Craig Whyte.
Ashley controlled merchandising and, according to Park, allegedly received “advantageous deals.” He also managed to buy the naming rights to Rangers’ Ibrox stadium for only £1.