The move will see Ashley shut 17 stores — a mix of Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Flannels, USC and Evans Cycles outlets — when leases reach a break clause or expire. The retaliation comes after the pair failed to agree “reasonable terms” to keep the House of Fraser stores in Nottingham, Norwich, Lakeside in Essex and the Metrocentre in Gateshead open.
According to The Sunday Times Ashley estimates that the closure programme will cost more than £25m a year in lost rent and service charges. Ashley told the paper: “Intu has demonstrated it is unwilling to help retailers save stores and jobs. It is unrealistic for Intu to continue to enjoy a long term relationship with our retail businesses.”
Intu is currently dealing with a takeover bid from a consortium led by deputy chairman John Whittaker in £2.9bn deal. The consortium is made up of Whittaker’s Peel Group, the Saudi Arabian Olayan Group and the Canadian investor Brookfield Property Group have until the 30 November to agree on a deal following a third extension announced last week.