THE new owner of House of Fraser is Mike Ashley, one of the richest and most controversial businessmen in the UK.

He is the owner of Sports Direct, the UK’s largest retailer of sporting and leisure goods. The 53-year-old, who is originally from the West Midlands also owns Newcastle United FC and the luxury designer brand outlet chain Flannels.

READ MORE: Fears for jobs after Sports Direct buys House of Fraser

He is said to be personally worth £1.9 billion.


BY a combination of retailing genius, being in the right place at the right time, hard work, a bit of luck and sheer business ruthlessness. “You don’t want his tanks on your lawn,” as one high-profile PR expert once said.

Born in Walsall in 1964, Ashley left school at 16 with no major qualifications, although he was a county level squash player. Injury forced him to switch to coaching and he spotted a gap in the market for a sports shop.

READ MORE: The fall of House of Fraser – the sad collapse of a one-time Scottish success story

By now living away from home, he borrowed £10,000 from his family and opened his first shop in Maidenhead in Berkshire, and soon opened more around London.

This was the start of what became Sports Direct, which now has more than 400 stores in the UK and employs 20,000 people.

About 15 years ago, Ashley made the move which was to make him ultra-rich. He started buying up distressed famous sporting brands such as Dunlop Slazenger, boxing goods company Lonsdale and outdoor specialists Karrimor. This gave him control of production and retail and the company’s growth increased dramatically to its present status as the juggernaut of sports retailing.


ONCE publicity shy, Ashley shocked his friends and the business world when he paid out £155 million to buy in its entirety Newcastle United, one of the most famous football clubs in England, and boasting a passionate support.

Ashley was at first hugely popular, sitting among the fans and drinking beer with them – he likes a drink and once infamously vomited into a fireplace during the course of a business meeting. After United fell on hard times he tried to offload the club but then had to stay with it when it was relegated.

Meantime, his business practices came under scrutiny and he was hauled over the coals for his management’s treatment of employees and poor working conditions in his store, allegations which haunt him still.


IF Scots know of Mike Ashley it is most likely because of his involvement with another proud Scottish institution that collapsed into administration, namely Rangers FC.

Ashley’s chequered involvement with the Ibrox club has made him a hate figure for a large part of the Rangers support yet at one time he was hailed as a potential saviour as he put money into the club.

At one point he owned just under 9% of the shares of the parent company of Rangers. He wanted to buy more but Scottish Football Association rules stopped him doing so because he was already the owner of Newcastle.

When current chairman Dave King arrived at Ibrox, it was not long before the two men were at loggerheads and very expensive court cases ensued, mainly over the advantageous contract to sell Rangers kit which Ashley’s Sports Direct company enjoyed. That row is still going on.