Mike Ashley: who is the retail tycoon, what does he own, net worth - and could Frasers Group save Debenhams?

A former squash coach, the Walsall-born businessman has a taste for a lavish lifestyle

Mike Ashley's Fraser Group is in talks to buy Debenhams. (Pic: Getty Images)

Mike Ashley could yet come to the rescue of struggling department store chain Debenhams.

Mr Ashley's Fraser Group has confirmed it is working on a rescue package but said there was "no certainty" it could save the retailer.

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Debenhams is set to shut its doors by the end of March next year after administrators failed to find a buyer - putting 12,000 jobs at risk.

Who is Mike Ashley?

Mike Ashley is the founder and chief executive officer of UK retailer Sports Direct.

With a loan from his family, Mr Ashley opened his first sports and ski shop in 1982. By 1990, he had 100 stores rebranded as Sports Direct across the UK.

A former squash coach, the Walsall-born businessman has a taste for a lavish lifestyle.

His property portfolio includes a 33-bedroom London house, priced at £12m, and holiday homes in Spain and Miami.

His London pad has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a cinema and has four garages.

Like most billionaires, Mr Ashley likes flash cars and is reportedly the owner of a slick black Bentley, a BMW 7 Series and a champagne-coloured Aston Martin DB4.

The Aston Martin was bought for his ex-wife Linda, with whom he has three children; Anna, Ollie and Matilda.

Not content with just cars, Mr Ashley has a £5m helicopter - a navy Agusta Westland AW109 - which he uses for his daily commute.

What is Mike Ashley’s net worth?

Mr Ashley's personal wealth has increased hand-in-hand with the size of his retail empire, with Forbes listing his net worth at $3 billion in June 2020.

What companies does Mike Ashley own?

Alongside his Sports Direct shops, Mr Ashley started to expand his portfolio by acquiring other companies in the late 1990s.

Donnay, Lillywhites and Lonsdale were picked up and added to his stable at a time when all three companies were struggling financially.

Mr Ashley then bought Carlton, Dunlop, Slazenger and Karrimor in 2004 before a seven-year spending spree, which saw him purchase Campri, No Fear, Kangol and Firetrap among others.

During this time he also bought Newcastle United Football Club and has since used St James’ Park as a way to advertise Sports Direct.

In 2018, Mr Ashley jumped to the rescue to buy another struggling business, this time the House of Fraser for £90 million which he hopes to turn into the ‘Harrods of the High Street’.

Could Mike Ashley save Debenhams?

Mr Ashley’s Sports Direct group was already an investor in House of Fraser before buying its 59 UK shops, branding and all of its stock.

He already holds a stake in Debenhams, too.

Mr Ashley owns nearly 30 percent of Debenhams and has already offered to loan Philip Green’s Arcadia, the store’s biggest concession holder, £50m on 30 November.

Arcadia’s collapse into administration is said to be one of the biggest issues surrounding the deal, according to the BBC.

Mr Ashley made an offer in the region of £125m for Debenhams in April 2020, only for the bid to be knocked back for being too low.

JD Sports held an interest in acquiring the store but its proposed rescue deal reportedly fell through on 2 December.

What has Frasers Group said?

A statement from the Frasers Group read: “Whilst Frasers Group hopes that a rescue package can be put in place and jobs saved, time is short and the position is further complicated by the recent administration of the Arcadia Group, Debenhams’ biggest concession holder.

“There is no certainty that any transaction will take place, particularly if discussions cannot be concluded swiftly.”