Mike Ashley left furious after Debenhams defeat

  • Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills discusses the future of Debenhams

Mike Ashley has just lost a fist-fight for control of Debenhams – a fight, in truth, he never looked like winning.

Debenhams was making losses and owed more than £500 million.

That debt was held by banks and hedge funds so, in the end, they called all the shots.

Overnight, they turned down yet another of Ashley's "rescue" plans. The offer of help that came with the usual strings attached - Ashley should have realised by now that the demand that he was made chief executive of Debenhams was an instant deal-breaker.

Debenhams is in administration. Credit: PA

On Tuesday shares in Debenhams were suspended and the company was put into administration. Ashley and the other shareholders got wiped out and Debenhams was immediately reborn as a private company owned by its lenders.

Ashley spent £150m building a stake in Debenhams - it's proved a terrible investment.

He's furious, Sports Direct's other shareholders will be furious too, some of them may well be furious with him.

In a statement Sports Direct said "this is nothing short of a national scandal" and accused Debenhams directors of "incompetence, or worse...collusion".

Ashley said politicians and regulators "have proven to be as effective as a chocolate teapot".

It feels like the rage of the vanquished. Debenhams has made no comment.

Debenhams new owners are the lenders. The banks are in a position they never wanted to be in, the hedge funds are exactly where they hoped they’d be.

The dominant player appears to be Silver Point Capital, a US Hedge Fund, who began hoovering up Debenhams debt at the first signs of trouble.

The expectation is that the "new" Debenhams – lead by the same management team - will launch a CVA in the next week or so.

Around one third of Debenhams 166 department stores are expected to close, around one third of its 25,000 staff are likely to be let go.

The scale of the restructuring is extraordinarily brutal but, remember, even Mike Ashley was planning a Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVA).

One of the few things on which everyone can agree is that Debenhams can't survive in its current form.