Mike Ashley now largest shareholder in AO World

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has conducted another raid on AO World taking his total spending to £75m in the Bolton-based online white goods retailer.

Ashley made a third move on the shares via his Frasers Group and increased its stake to more than 22.2% just as it raised its holding in AO’s rival, the bricks and mortar retailer Currys.

AO shares rose 2.3% to 86.30 as news rippled through the markets.

Weekend newspaper speculation had been rife that Ashley, a known gambler, was using his trading positions to either control the UK retail environment, or purchase undervalued stakes in businesses where he sees value.

He’s also taken strategic stakes in Manchester-based fast fashion retailer Boohoo, who’s shares hit a low last week, and are still trading yesterday at the historic low of 34p. 

TheBusinessDesk.com reported yesterday that Ashley has taken a consultancy position at the business he founded, a year after formally stepping down from the board which is now led by his 33-year old son-in-law Michael Murray.

There is also a certain amount of opportunism in the latest move on AO World as Ashley has snapped up many stakes from Odey Asset Management, the hedge fund run by Crispin Odey who has been hit by a fresh sexual harassment allegations.

Yesterday’s share move nudged Ashley’s Frasers Group holding in AO to just over 22.2% making him AO’s largest shareholder, slightly ahead of Camelot Capital Partners which holds 20.4%.

In a statement last week, the company said: “Driving growth through strategic investments is a core part of Frasers’ DNA. Under Michael Murray’s leadership, we continue to build on our long track record of establishing supportive shareholder positions in attractive retail companies. We have a clear strategy to identify opportunities to invest in businesses which complement our existing sport, premium and luxury businesses, or help us to build and further utilise our sector-leading ecosystem.”

It went on to describe Boohoo as “an attractive proposition to us with its laser focus on young female consumers” and said it saw “potential synergies and an opportunity to strengthen our own brand proposition in collaboration”. 

It also described the moves on AO and Currys as “our foothold in the electricals industry” and offered Frasers retail know-how and “sector-leading ecosystem”.

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