Mike Ashley has dismissed conversations at the centre of a £14m High Court claim against him as “drink banter”.
The Sports Direct boss and Newcastle United owner is disputing a case brought by an investment banker, Jeffrey Blue, who says he did not stick to a commercial agreement.
In his evidence, Mr Blue has aired a series of colourful claims about Mr Ashley, including that he would nap in meetings and hold drink-fuelled management sessions – one of which culminated with the businessman vomiting into a fireplace.
The case centres on the banker’s claim about a meeting in a London pub, the Horse & Groom, in 2013.
He says Mr Ashley promised to pay him £15m if he used his expertise to increase Sports Direct’s value to £8 a share, but that the tycoon only paid £1m.
Image: Investment banker Jeffrey Blue is suing Mr Ashley
The businessman told the court, in a written statement: “I can’t believe that (Mr Blue) is now trying to take me for £14m off the back of some drink banter that he is seeking to engineer into something more.”
Mr Ashley’s barrister, David Cavender QC, accused Mr Blue of “making up evidence” and described his claim as an “opportunistic try-on”.
Mr Cavender told the judge: “The claim appears to have been issued on the basis that the threat of negative press alone would compel Mr Ashley to settle.
“In truth, there was no purported agreement and Mr Blue could not have thought so at the time.”
Mr Cavender said Mr Ashley “fairly” said he could not recall details of conversations in the Horse & Groom “particularly in the light of the amount of drinking”.
“He does recall ‘that there was a lot of banter and bravado,” said Mr Cavender.
“He does not recall any discussion about whether Mr Blue would be paid a sum of money if the share price reached £8 a share.
“He says if there was ‘it would have been obvious that he was joking’.”
Mr Ashley, who was in court for the hearing, is due to give evidence in person on Wednesday.