On 26 July 2017 the Commercial Court handed down its judgment in the Blue v Ashley proceedings.
Mr Ashley is the well-known founder, majority shareholder and CEO of Sports Direct. Mr Blue was a consultant for a company in the Sports Direct group. The claim arose from a remarkable set of circumstances. As Mr Justice Leggatt put it:
“In the course of a jocular conversation with three investment bankers in a pub on the evening of 24 January 2013, Mr Ashley said that he would pay Mr Blue £15m if Mr Blue could get the price of Sports Direct shares (then trading at around £4 per share) to £8. Mr Blue expressed his agreement to that proposal and everyone laughed.”
Nevertheless, Mr Blue claimed £15m from Mr Ashley, contending that the conversation in the pub gave rise to a legally binding agreement between him and Mr Ashley.
That claim was rejected by Mr Justice Leggatt, who held that no reasonable person would have thought the conversation in a pub was serious and was intended to be a legally binding agreement and, even if the parties had intended to make an agreement that such an agreement was not sufficiently certain to be enforceable and, still further, than even if that were wrong that Mr Blue had not proved that he was the cause of the rise in the share price.
The judgment is notable for its extended discussion of the weakness of evidence based on recollection.
No5’s David Cavender QC and Tamara Kagan acted for Mr Ashley.