Watchdog intervenes on Bentley’s Debenhams comment

Watchdog intervenes on Bentley’s Debenhams comment

A Sports Direct (LON: SPD) director caused confusion on Wednesday after suggestions that the group would buy Debenhams – before insisting he did not intend to make the comment.

The Takeover Panel had no choice to intervene following the made by comments Simon Bentley and led Sports Direct to issue a formal statement confirming it had no plans to buy the department store.

“If there are opportunities in the future we would be in a position to take advantage,” Bentley said.

Following the comment, shares in Debenhams (LON: DEB) climbed nine percent.

Soon after, the Sports Direct director said in a statement that his comments referred to “a general question about whether or not we discuss our strategic investments, and in particular Debenhams, to which I replied in the positive.”

“I made no mention of any merger between House of Fraser and Debenhams, nor did I intend my answer to infer that,” he added.

Bentley has resigned from the retailer, along with chairman Keith Hellawell after they had not been listed for re-election. 

Sports Direct said in a statement: “Dr Keith Hellawell has today informed the board of his decision to step down as chairman and as a director of the company, having served since November 2009.

“Dr Hellawell will retire with effect from the conclusion of today’s AGM, and will therefore not be seeking re-election.

“David Daly, non-executive director, will take up the role of chairman at the conclusion of the AGM.”

Hellawell said: “Having overseen significant improvements in the working practices and corporate governance of the company, which includes a refresh of the board, now is the right time for me to step aside.

“I have every confidence that the group will continue to go from strength to strength. I have enjoyed the challenges of Sports Direct and the support of Mike Ashley; many major investors; members of the board and senior staff, and wish them much success for the future,” he added.