Ashley swoops on new Intu property amid public bust-up

Mike Ashley has acquired a new property from Intu amid a public bust-up with the retail landlord, it can be revealed.

The Press Association understands that the retail billionaire has bought a long leasehold on the former BHS site in Derby from Intu as he threatens to withdraw 17 stores from the retail landlord’s centres.

It comes less than a month after Sports Direct took the lease on an 11,000 square foot store in Intu’s Merry Hill shopping centre, where it will open a Flannels store.

Last week Mr Ashley vowed to close his stores in Intu buildings after the company refused to accept his proposals for rent reductions at four House of Fraser branches.

Insiders say the tracksuit tycoon is trying to strong-arm landlords into agreeing favourable rental terms for the department store chain, asking in some cases to pay no rent at all.

Mr Ashley claimed his boycott would cost Intu £25 million in rental income per year, though sources close to the company have said the figure is closer to £4 million.

The Derby deal is part of a trio of property disposals for Intu which were announced on Friday.

The company has also sold freeholds at Brierley Hill, close to its Merry Hill shopping centre, and York House in Nottingham.

The sale of the three properties achieved a combined total of £25.25 million.

The row with Mr Ashley comes at a sensitive time for Intu. Its shares tanked on Thursday after suitors pulled a £2.8 billion takeover bid.

Intu said market conditions meant the consortium – led by John Whittaker’s Peel Group – could not continue with its proposed offer within the timeframe set out by City takeover rules.

Sports Direct could not be reached for comment.