Mike Ashley’s tanks parked firmly on North West retail lawns

Mike Ashley

Sports fashion giant Frasers, controlled by Mike Ashley, now owns more than a fifth of N Brown the Manchester-based home shopping fashion business after upping his stake from 19.36% to 20.02%.

Frasers now holds 92.8 million shares in N Brown, which owns Simply Be, JD Williams and Jacamo, worth £16.1 million based on Friday’s closing price of 17.33p.

Previous share swoops have stimulated an increase in the N Brown share price.

In a steady trading announcement in January 2024 N Brown’s chief executive Steve Johnson said a new JD Williams website will be launched this year along with a new Product Information Management system, enhancing product descriptions for customers.

Last week Ashley also has consolidated his position as the largest single shareholder in troubled online fast fashion retailer Boohoo as London Stock Exchange market filings in 2024 revealed Frasers stake had increased from 17% to 22%.

Frasers now own a stake almost double that of Boohoo co-founder Mahmud Kamani.

In June 2023 Frasers rocked the market when repeated raids on AO World took his total spending to £75m in the Bolton-headquartered white goods retailer, of which he now owns 22.2%.

The speculation amongst retailers, analysts and an army of Ashley watchers hinges on whether Ashley, a known gambler, is using his trading positions to either control the UK retail environment, or purchase undervalued stakes in businesses where he sees value.

At the start of 2023 Frasers splashed £100m on suite of retail brands from rival JD Sports: Base Childrenswear, Kids Cavern, Pretty Green, Prevu Studio, Nicholas Deakins, Missy Empire, Clothingsites (incl Brown Bag Clothing trading website), and Watch Shop, as well as Cricket, Giulio, Choice, Tessuti (incl Xile), Scotts, Rascal Clothing, and Topgrade Sportswear.

In a separate move this morning, Frasers told the stock market it is buying up to £80m of its own shares, Frasers shares closed at 784p on Friday, giving the group a market value of £3.55bn and latest scheme follows several buybacks throughout 2023.

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