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Newcastle United's Mike Ashley raises £106m in shares sale
NEWCASTLE United owner Mike Ashley has boosted his personal fortune by £106m after selling a 2.7 per cent stake in his Sports Direct business, which he founded 30 years ago.
Mr Ashley's share sale comes less than a year after he raised £100m by offloading a 4 per cent holding in Sports Direct, sparking speculation over his plans for the cash haul.
The move was announced a day after recent FTSE 100 Index entrant Sports Direct reported yet more robust trading figures, with a 15.1 per cent sales surge in the nine weeks to September 29.
Sports Direct saw its stock price fall as much as 9 per cent at one stage today after Mr Ashley's sale of 16 million shares for 662.5p, before recovering a little to stand 5 per cent lower.
Mr Ashley still has a 61.7 per cent holding in Sports Direct, down from around 68 per cent at the start of the year. As a condition of the sell-off, Mr Ashley cannot sell more shares for another 180 days.
Rumours had swirled around his share sale earlier this year, but the stock has continued to surge since February, up more than 70 per cent so far in 2013 and earning the group promotion into the FTSE 100 Index last month.
Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said: "There was a lot of fuss about him cashing in, but these moves only help to improve liquidity over time and the sale yesterday... seems to have been taken more calmly."
Mr Ashley caused ill-feeling in the stock market after Sports Direct shares plunged following its flotation in February 2007, which saw him sell a 43 per cent stake for more than £900m.
Having listed at 300p, the shares went as low as 33p after a string of profit warnings.
But a reliably strong performance since then has helped the group gain the City's confidence as Sports Direct benefits from the demise of rival JJB Sports and a recovering retail sector, as well as ongoing investment and the positive impact on employees of a lucrative bonus scheme.
It recently emerged that Sports Direct's 20,000 part-time staff were employed on zero-hours contracts, leaving them not knowing how many hours they would work from week to week, with no sick pay or holiday pay, leading unions to voice concern.
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