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Sports Direct's Ashley wins court battle over drunk bonus deal

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Mike Ashley, the billionaire owner of Sports Direct, won a court ruling denying a former employee's claim that the retail tycoon made a legally binding £15 million ($19.5 million) bonus deal in a London pub.

[LONDON] Mike Ashley, the billionaire owner of Sports Direct, won a court ruling denying a former employee's claim that the retail tycoon made a legally binding £15 million ($19.5 million) bonus deal in a London pub.

Jeffrey Blue, an ex-Merrill Lynch investment banker who worked for Mr Ashley, alleged in a London lawsuit that his boss reneged on a pledge made in a bar in early 2013 that he would get the payment if he doubled the retailer's share price to £8.

Judge George Leggatt released his ruling Wednesday.

"No reasonable person present would have thought that the offer to pay Mr Blue was serious," Mr Leggatt said.

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The case "shows only that the human capacity for wishful thinking knows few bounds".

The court case, littered with references to heavy drinking, has been an unwelcome distraction for Mr Ashley, who built Sports Direct from one shop into the UK's biggest sportswear retailer.

He's trying to resurrect growth at the company after a dismal 18 months.

Since a December 2015 undercover newspaper investigation exposed management issues at its warehouse, Sports Direct's shares have lost more than half their value.

BLOOMBERG

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