Tuesday 20 February 2018

Sports Direct to seal €48m acquisition of Heatons chain today

Clerys. Photo: Frank McGrath
Clerys. Photo: Frank McGrath
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The €48m sale of Irish store chain Heatons to Mike Ashley's Sports Direct will be completed today after the two sides settled a bitter legal dispute at the High Court yesterday.

Completion of the deal comes amid a report that Sports Direct is eyeing up an outlet at the former Clerys department store on Dublin's O'Connell Street. A billionaire, Mr Ashley owns Newcastle United and a share in Glasgow Rangers.

Sports Direct has owned a 50pc stake in Heatons for years and in October said that it had marginally increased that to a majority stake and had engineered an agreement to buy the remainder.

A separate, blistering legal row had been under way between the parties before that agreement was reached, with Sports Direct having sued Heatons' other shareholders, claiming that Heatons had entered into numerous property transactions without the consent of Sports Direct.

Heatons, which has almost 60 outlets, had claimed that Sports Direct was attempting damage the Irish department store chain.

But the sides then agreed to sales terms that would see Sports Direct secure full ownership of Heatons, paying €47.5m for the stake it didn't already own.

However, another legal battle was subsequently ignited between the pair.

Heatons' shareholders Mark Heaton, Hugh Heaton, and John O'Neill claimed in the High Court that Sports Direct International was refusing to comply with parts of the sale agreement.

Specifically, the argument centred around Sports Direct International's attempt to deduct capital gains tax that the sellers might have been liable for, from the sale price. Heatons' shareholders argued that an agreement had been reached with Sports Direct that should have seen the full amount handed over to the sellers, who would then settle their own tax affairs.

The Heatons' shareholders also argued that they had provided all necessary paperwork and property valuations for this to be done.

Although Mark Heaton was party to the action, he had already sold his shares to Sports Direct.

The two sides reached a settlement just as the case was set to resume after lunch in the High Court. Sports Direct will now pay the sellers the gross €47.5m sale amount.

Heatons' shareholders' case was led by Michael Cush SC. Sports Direct International was represented by former Attorney General Paul Gallagher SC.

Solicitor for the Heatons' shareholders, Hugh Millar of Crowley Millar, said they welcomed the resolution.

Irish Independent

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