Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley has won a High Court battle with investment banker Jeffrey Blue over a £15m deal he allegedly made in a London pub.

On Wednesday (26 July), Ashley's lawyers claimed the Newcastle United owner had won a "comprehensive" victory against Blue, who had sued the tycoon, alleging Ashley did not hold up his end of the bargain on an agreement between the pair.

The issue stemmed from a conversation between Ashley and Blue, which allegedly took place in the Horse & Groom, a London pub, in 2013. The banker maintains the tycoon promised to pay him £15m if Blue used his expertise to double Sports Direct stock price to £8 per share within three years.

Handing down his judgment at the High Court, Mr Justice Leggatt said: "No reasonable person present in the Horse & Groom would have thought the offer to pay Mr Blue £15m was serious.

"No one who was actually present, including Mr Blue, did in fact think so at the time. They all thought of it as a joke. The fact that Mr Blue has since convinced himself that the offer was a serious one shows only that the human capacity for wishful thinking knows few bounds."

Pub banter

Ashley, who was not in court to hear the ruling, had dismissed the allegations, claiming it did not recall agreeing to a deal.

The Sports Direct founder, whose fortune is worth in excess of £2bn, had told a High Court in London that it would be "ludicrous" for Blue to take seriously what he described as pub banter

Ashley had told the court the meeting with Blue in the Horse & Groom had been organised by the investment banker himself, as a way to sell Sports Direct to Esprito Santo Investment Bank (ESIB) as a potential client.

"It was a fun night, as it was intended to be, and everyone was on good form," the tycoon said earlier this month.

"We got on well, so much so, that we ended up going out after the pub to a bar in the West End where we stayed until the early morning. I had drunk so much that I can't remember which bar we went to."

Ashley went to say he performed the role Blue had "asked of me" as per his game plan. He added during a night filled with "banter and bravado" he had also offered broker Simon McEvoy a job as Sport Direct or at Newcastle United.

"It was a drink-fuelled, fun night and it would have been obvious to Blue and anyone else in that context that whatever conversations took place involving a payment for Blue were not serious," the court was told.

"Blue is an experienced businessman and lawyer and it is ridiculous for him to suggest otherwise. I can't believe that he is now trying to take me for £14m off the back of some drunk banter that he is seeking to engineer into something more."