Mike Ashley renews attempts to oust Debenhams board

Mike Ashley has doubled down on his efforts to install himself on the board of Debenhams after a previous attempt was foiled by a technicality.

In a statement to the market, the tycoon’s Sports Direct requisitioned a meeting of Debenhams shareholders to appoint Mr Ashley to the board and remove all other members except finance boss Rachel Osborne.

The move replaces a previous attempt to call a meeting made by Sports Direct on March 7, which transpired to be invalid due to the company’s shares in Debenhams being held by a third-party nominee.

“Sports Direct would like the matter of Debenhams board appointments to be put to the vote of the Debenhams shareholders as soon as possible,” the company said.

Mr Ashley owns just under 30% of Debenhams through Sports Direct.

Under the proposal, he would step down from his current roles as a director and chief executive of Sports Direct, to be replaced by deputy finance boss Chris Wootton in an acting capacity.

It comes as Debenhams scrambles to secure a £150 million refinancing deal from lenders this week ahead of a rent deadline.

Without the fresh capital, it is feared the company could go into administration.

Mr Ashley has offered to loan the money to the retailer, which has said it will consider the proposal.

The department store chain said any such loan would require the backing of current lenders and “material amendments” to existing facilities.

It added: “Nevertheless, the board will give careful consideration to the proposal and will engage with Sports Direct and other stakeholders regarding its feasibility in the interests of all parties.”