Newcastle United owner set to take over Heatons
CONTROVERSIAL Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is sets to take over Irish department store chain Heatons.
His Sports Direct company already owns half of shares in Heatons, and it has struck a €47.5m (£34.8m) deal to buy up the clothes and homeware retailer.
Heatons has 54 stores across Ireland including 10 in the north.
Sports Direct chief executive Dave Forsey said: "We look forward to accelerating investment into the existing store portfolio and strengthening the Heatons and Sports Direct brands across Ireland."
Mr Ashley secured an initial agreement with minority shareholder Sandra Minor to buy a stake in Warrnambool, the holding company of Heatons.
When that deal goes through, Sports Direct will own more than half of the company and it has a conditional agreement to then buy the remaining shares from Mark Heaton, Hugh Heaton, John O'Neill, Warrnambool and Katipo Limited.
Twenty-seven of Heatons' 44 stores in the Republic have a dedicated instore SportsWorld section, while the Northern Ireland shops either have a Sports Direct branded section or have a Sports Direct outlet in the same premises.
Warrnambool also owns and operates five stand-alone Sports Direct branded stores in Northern Ireland.
The deal is subject to clearance from the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Mr Ashley bought English Premier League club Newcastle United in 2007 and is also a shareholder at Glasgow giants Rangers.
Although popular with fans of Newcastle at first, he fell out of favour amid perceptions he did not release enough money to buy players.