FILE PHOTO: Shoppers walk past the Debenhams department store on Oxford Street in London, Britain December 15, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
LONDON (Reuters) – British department store Debenhams on Wednesday rejected what it said were “unfounded and self-serving complaints” from shareholder Sports Direct about its communications to the market before it warned on profit earlier this month.
Mike Ashley, the founder and majority shareholder of Sports Direct, is trying to take charge of Debenhams by seeking to remove most of the board and install himself in an executive role. Sport Direct owns nearly 30 percent of Debenhams.
Sports Direct wrote to Debenhams directors before it warned on profit, saying comments made eight weeks earlier that cost savings were helping compensate for difficult trading were “at best impossibly optimistic or at worst deliberately misleading”, according to a report in the Financial Times.
“We reject these unfounded and self-serving complaints,” Debenhams said.
“Debenhams’ board has taken advice at every stage in order to ensure that its announcements have been consistent with the disclosure requirements.
“The company is seeking to execute a much-needed restructuring – in the interests of all stakeholders – while its biggest shareholder tries to undermine the process at every turn.”
Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by David Evans