Is Mike Ashley a new hero for the UK High Street?

Just four years ago, Nanfing Cenbest, part of China's Sanpower, bought HoF for £ 480 million, and its future seemed secure.

Is it the case that High Street has a new hero, even if it is unlikely?

Take a step forward Mike Ashley, the much ridiculed boss of Sports Direct and Newcastle United, who is best known for his supposed rude behavior as a savior.

In a last-minute fight, the owner of Sports Direct defeated rival Philip Day of Edinburgh Woollen Mills to rescue House of Fraser from the teeth of collapse and save 16,000 jobs.

Just four years ago, Nanfing Cenbest, part of China's Sanpower, bought HoF for £ 480 million, and its future seemed secure.

Just four years ago, Nanfing Cenbest, part of China's Sanpower, bought HoF for £ 480 million, and its future seemed secure.

Ashley, who already owned 11 percent of the departmental store group, is paying £ 90 million to buy the 59 stores, the brand and all the shares.

More importantly, all the staff, 6,000 who work in the stores and another 10,000 employees in the concessions, have transferred their contracts to Sports Direct and will continue to receive their payment.

It is a better offer than anyone thought a bidder would do for the business, which is technically bankrupt and went to the administration yesterday.

What is not known – and is disputed – is whether Ashley deliberately waited until HoF entered the administration before making her final offer, since that meant she did not have to take responsibility for her pension plan, which is surplus.

"It's clear that Ashley was hurt by the defamation of the media she received about allegedly Victorian-style practices in her stores, and payments to family members."

It is difficult to judge. You can not blame Ashley for not wanting to take on the responsibilities of the pension, having seen her great friend, Sir Philip Green, be ridiculed for BHS pensions.

If it were a choice between saving 16,000 jobs and not taking on pensions, the administrators made the right decision.

They know how difficult life is on the High Street. Like most retailers, HoF has suffered fierce competition from new online retailers, higher rates and salaries.

But it has also been managed and financed terribly for years, from the time it was owned by the Fayeds. Just four years ago, Nanfing Cenbest, part of China's Sanpower, bought HoF for £ 480 million, and its future seemed secure.

Can Ashley do better? Probably.

Regardless of what you think about his questionable management style, he has created a successful chain of 750 copies and has a bright eye to know what young people want from brands.

For now, he wants to keep all 59 stores, including the 31 that will be closed. Some will become Sports Direct stores and others in their chain of flannel designers.

If Mike Ashley wants to convert some House of Fraser stores into & # 39; Selfridges of sport & # 39; why did not he do that with Lillywhites? Maggie Pagano asks.

If Mike Ashley wants to convert some House of Fraser stores into & # 39; Selfridges of sport & # 39; why did not he do that with Lillywhites? Maggie Pagano asks.

If Mike Ashley wants to convert some House of Fraser stores into & # 39; Selfridges of sport & # 39; why did not he do that with Lillywhites? Maggie Pagano asks.

It also has designs to transform some stores, many of them in prime locations in the city center, either & # 39; Selfridges of sport & # 39; or & # 39; Harrods of the High Street & # 39; Or both. It's the reason why he has been chasing HoF and Debenhams, in which he has a 29.7 percent stake, for years.

If you can believe it, it seems strange that he has allowed the once large empire of Lillywhites in Piccadilly to be impregnated with the horrid gummy odors that knock him unconscious in his Sports Direct stores.

Maybe he needs the range of HoF stores to give him scale and purchasing power. Soon we will see. With luck, he will take the stores vertically and behave honorably with the staff and the suppliers.

It is clear that Ashley has been stung by the media she received for alleged "Victorian" practices in her stores and payments to family members. He did not pay a salary last year, he has received criticism, and so has the board.

This was noted in the annual report last week, when President Keith Hellawell said that Sports Direct has been hailed as one of the UK's biggest breeders in terms of reputation.

He added that there was no room for complacency in improving labor practices and that, although Ashley was portrayed as a "pantomime villain," she was now on "a path of transformation for the benefit of all."

Miracles can happen. Ashley would do well to remember what happened to the last High Street king.

ALEX BRUMMER IS AWAY

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