Sports Direct founder buys stake in House of Fraser

LONDON, April 6 Sun Apr 6, 2014 6:58am EDT

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LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) - The founder of Britain's Sports Direct has bought an 11 percent stake in House of Fraser, a source close to the deal said, only days after China's Sanpower Group agreed to buy a 89 percent in the British department store.

Mike Ashley, who holds 62 percent of sport goods retailer Sports Direct, the firm he founded in 1982, has long been linked to attempts to acquire Britain's House of Fraser and finally bought the stake this week from Scottish tycoon Tom Hunter, the source said.

British media said the deal was worth 50 million pounds.

It was unclear however whether Ashley, who also owns English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United, had bought the stake personally or done so via Sports Direct, but media reports said it was likely to be the latter.

On Friday a source said China's Sanpower Group had agreed to buy an 89 percent stake in the 160-year-old House of Fraser in a deal valuing the department store at over 450 million pounds ($746 million), including debt.

House of Fraser trades from 61 stores in Britain and Ireland and has annual sales of about 1.2 billion pounds.

Sports Direct, which has over 600 sports stores in Europe, including 400 in the UK, grew rapidly during the economic downturn on demand for its value offers, supported by a mixture of acquisitions, expanding online sales and the demise of rivals like JJB Sports.

Sports Direct and House of Fraser declined to comment. (Reporting by Neil Maidment; Writing by Silvia Antonioli; editing by David Evans)

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