Is Mike Ashley set to add to his retail empire?

Mike Ashley

Retail tycoon Mike Ashley and rival Peter Cowgill are have entered into a race to buy Office, a national shoe retailer, just days after they clashed over the CMA’s decision regarding JD Sports Fashion sale of Footasylum.

Ashley and Cowgill’s JD Sports are among the bidders for Office, along with two other unnamed interested parties.

Truworths International, Office’s, is also considering whether to retake control of parts of the company through pre-pack administration.

The bitter rivalry between two of the UK’s two biggest retail entrepreneurs ignited last week. After the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) told JD Sports that it must offload Footasylum, which it bought last year, on the basis that it risked leaving shoppers disadvantaged.

JD Sports branded the decision ‘extraordinary’, and said it relied on ‘an inaccurate and outdated analysis of the UK sports retail competitive landscape’. They are currently considering appealing the CMA’s decision.

Cowgill stated that ‘the CMA has been taken in by the self-serving testimony of one notoriously vocal competitor’ – alluding to his great rival.

Shareholders in Frasers have previously declared their uncertainty about Ashley expanding his retail empire, after taking over companies such as Evans Cycles, Game Digital, House of Fraser, Jack Wills and

Office trades from 130 stores in the UK and Europe, and last changed hands in a £250m when Truworths acquired the business.

Neither firm has made an official announcement on the potential acquisition.