Mike Ashley is one of Britain’s most eccentric billionaires.
He is regularly depicted in the media as a beer-swilling, sport-fanatic version of the reclusive American airline magnate Howard Hughes. Although his companies are the subject of daily headlines, Ashley the person is still something of an enigma. He rarely gives interviews.
He grew up in humble bungalow in Burnham, Buckinghamshire. Now 50, Ashley turned his first shop (opened in 1981) into the Sports Direct apparel empire that has made him one of the richest people in the UK. He owns stakes in Newcastle United and Rangers FC. His personal fortune is estimated to be £3.75 billion.
He can also down a pint in less than 10 seconds, loves to party, gamble, and take his shirt off, and he uses a plastic shopping bag as a briefcase.
He may live in a mansion now but he grew up in a bungalow in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, like this one.
But Ashley's plan to become a pro squash player was scuppered by an injury at 16. (It's not clear what, exactly, the injury was.)
That's not accounting for his ownership in other sports and outdoor companies.
His purchases have included Donnay, Dunlop Slazenger, Karrimor, Kangol and boxing brand Lonsdale.
Ashley also has a massive stake in Blacks Leisure Group, the owner of Millets and Mambo
His 'bargain basement' sportswear empire became a national obsession when he launched the Sports Direct IPO in 2006.
Ashley is 'just one of the lads,' according to one fan called 'Beefy' (real name Keith Roberts) who spoke to NUFC.com and posted a picture online. 'He was just walking past in the ground on his way to his seat and I said can I have my photo taken with you,' said Roberts. 'I lifted my top and he just said to me, 'Well you've got your belly out then I'll have to get mine out.''
So, how did he become so successful, so quickly? He is ruthless. One banker, during the 2006 IPO, said Ashley likes to 'park his tanks on peoples' lawns.'
He ratted out his rivals in 2000, when he told the Office of Fair Trading that other companies were trying to fix the price of football shirts.
Then in 2014, he bought a portion of Rangers FC but was prevented from increasing the stake due to a conflict of interest with his ownership of Newcastle United.
He also likes to party. He spent £125,000 on champagne at the Pink Elephant nightclub in New York in 2008, on a night out with friends.
He also reportedly lost £1 million in two hours on the craps tables at London's Aspers Casino in 2011.
But he keeps it real, too: This video of Ashley downing a pint at a football match in less than 10 seconds is legendary. (Give this gif a few moments to load.)
But he doesn't always have the Midas Touch. In 2008, he lost around £300 million after HBOS bank collapsed following the credit crisis.
He also heavily invested in Tesco and Debenhams before both retailers' stocks were crushed by profit warnings and accounting scandals.
Ashley has been quiet recently. But he may be forced to talk to politicians over the collapse of USC in February 2015.
USC is one of the units within his Sports Direct clothing empire.
British lawmakers want to know why Ashley let USC collapse -- with the loss of 200 jobs -- but then immediately bought the company back after it went into administration.
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