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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Business
Simon English

Mike Ashley might get more hands-on again at Frasers after Matches disaster

In some ways there is something almost comically haphazard about the acquisition strategy of Frasers Group, the retail giant founded by Mike Ashley and best known for Sports Direct. 

Ashley, a brusque bruiser with as little interest in what the public thinks of him as he appears to have for salad, handed day-to-day control of his empire to his son-in-law Michael Murray a while ago.

His recent deals include the purchase of Wiggle bikes for £10million and Matches, just last year for £52 million.

Ashley appears to have a relaxed attitude to this seemingly scatter-gun approach — some deals work, some don’t — and perhaps you’d feel the same if you were worth £4 billion. 

Still, it’s possible Ashley is on the phone to Murray today given the abrupt closure of Matches. “Erm, son, just tell me again why that was a good idea?” 

Murray’s gamble that he could turn around the struggling luxury brand always looked like a bold one. 

Today it just looks like a bad bet. Given the state of the retail sector — online and on the high street — perhaps we should be thankful Murray has licence to play about with his father-inlaws’ money. If you are a struggling retailer — most of them are — its Frasers Group, Next, or bust. 

Superdry could get bought by private equity, but it too has problems at which even Mike Ashley might baulk. 

As for Matches, well the flame has gone out, a shame, not least for the near 700 people it employed until the end of last year.

 It is to be hoped that Murray and Ashley keep playing retail roulette and land on a winning number once in a while. Retail entrepreneurs across the UK are counting on it.

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