Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley has failed in his High Court bid to have Rangers FC chairman Dave King jailed for breaching a gagging order.
But a judge has yet to rule on whether or not Mr King is in contempt of court for breaching confidentiality undertakings. If he is, he could face penalties other than prison.
Is Mr Ashley interested in a ‘sensible’ business relationship with Mr King?Justice Peter Smith
Mr Ashley and his company say he is because he gave a media interview revealing the existence of a meeting and discussions related to contracts between Sports Direct and the Ibrox club.
Mr Justice Peter Smith, sitting in London, is expected to give his full decision today.
The judge warned Mr King, who was sitting in the back of the court: “I think Mr King should say absolutely nothing [to the press] except how happy he is not to go to prison, and Mr Justice Peter Smith is a fair-minded judge.”
The legal action is the latest development in a conflict which has arisen since Mr King took over running Rangers and centres on the commercial arrangements between the club and Sports Direct and its subsidiaries. The application to commit Mr King to prison was made by David Quest QC, appearing for Sports Direct and Mr Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United.
The QC told the judge: “This present litigation is born out of Sports Direct wanting, so far as it is lawfully entitled, to keep these commercial arrangements confidential under the terms of a written confidentiality undertaking.”
He said the interview complained of took place in South Africa and was filmed for Sky Sports in July.
But the judge wondered aloud what was the point of both sides spending some £400,000 on the legal action. The judge queried whether Mr Ashley was interested in having a “sensible” business relationship with Mr King “or grinding him into the dust”.
The judge said: “Maybe he is interested. I don’t know.”
Mr Quest said Mr King had stated that he had no recollection of whether or not he said the words complained of from the Sky Sports interview.
But the court was entitled to draw inferences against him to the criminal standard required for an individual to be jailed for contempt.
The judge replied: “I am not going to send a person to prison on an inference.”