Ashley in audacious bid to seize control of Debenhams: Tycoon calls for boardroom clearout

Crisis point: The attempted coup came days after Debenhams issued a fourth profit warning since January 2018. Analysts expect it to make losses of £30m this year

Ashley has already overseen one boardroom coup that resulted in Sir Ian Cheshire’s removal as Debenhams chairman.

Chief executive Sergio Bucher was also removed from the board but still runs the retailer.

In last night’s statement to the stock market, Ashley demanded a general meeting of Debenhams’ shareholders to discuss his latest plan ‘during this business-critical period’ for the company.

Ashley has repeatedly tried to gain control of Debenhams, and launched a scathing attack on management in December when it refused to accept a £40million loan from him. 

At the time he likened Cheshire, who was still chairman, to a doomed Christmas turkey in an extraordinary outburst during a results presentation.

The billionaire proposed the interest-free loan in exchange for an additional 10 per cent stake in Debenhams. When the offer was turned down, he warned the company ‘has a zero chance for survival’.

Debenhams accused the tycoon of ‘pure mischief making’.

Ashley has built up a £1billion war chest to snap up ailing retailers.

In the past year he has plucked House of Fraser and Evans Cycles out of administration for a combined £100million, and bought online furniture firm Sofa.

A Debenhams spokesman last night said: ‘The board has been engaging with Sports Direct and our other stakeholders and is disappointed that it has taken this action. 

‘In the meantime, we remain focused on delivering the restructuring of our balance sheet, and our discussions are well advanced.’