In a dark and stuffy room that had a faint aroma of oak; Mike Ashley lay, bare chested, across a large wooden desk. In one hand he gripped a silky white cat and, in the other, a short and stubby cigar balanced on a crystal whiskey glass. After a moments silence, he rolled his head and purred hazily into the air: “I’ve been expecting you, boys”.
And that, bizarrely, was how our meeting began. Ashley, the Sports Direct and Newcastle United owner, has recently been mentioned in some rather unfavourable headlines. Several allegations against the 52-year-old billionaire have recently been made public in a complex lawsuit.
Not one to usually reveal his private life, Ashley felt it important to clear his image up now more than ever. And so, as is only natural, he came to CLICKON Soccer.
Mike Ashley apparently ‘vomited into a fireplace after drinking 12 pints plus chasers at a board meeting’
Yeah sounds about right… pic.twitter.com/SfqcYoqK2n
— UNILAD Football (@UNILADFooty) July 3, 2017
We spent the day with him to shed some light on the man and his day-to-day business. And so we’ll now pick up where we left off.
Having invited us to nestle in one of his green leather office chairs, Ashley offered us a drink. On being told that it was only ten in the morning and that we’d save the drinks ’til we’d finished working, he smirked.
“Suit yourselves,” he murmured. Then, turning his back, “melts”. Glass in hand, he gently rotated his imposing figure to face a pale butler who stood, inconspicuously, in the corner.
“Say it, boy.” He demanded. The butler swallowed.
“We like to drink with Mike, coz Mike is our mate…”He began, nervously. “And when we drink with Mike…” Ashley cut him off, slamming his glass down onto the table as he begun to clap loudly.
“Who’s the daddy?” he roared. Then, composing himself, he buttoned up his shirt, mopped his brow and took a seat opposite us.
“Gentlemen, good of you to come. Where shall we begin?”
We explained that we’d come mostly to settle the whole drinking-on-the-job affair that Ashley was battling.
“Oh that? Utter b*****ks, lads.”
He topped up a new crystal glass, dumbfounded to have noticed a crack down his previous one.
“You see, when you’re stinking rich like me, people take a dislike to you. So they start making things up. I dunno who started all that ‘drinking during meetings’ nonsense, but it’s all rubbish, I can assure you.”
We weren’t convinced. But before we could press on, Mr Ashley excused himself. “Sorry, chaps” he said. “Important phone call.”
— Harry Wallop (@hwallop) July 3, 2017
Pulling a thick book from a shelf on his wall, he span in his chair – phone in hand – and disappeared behind a hidden revolving door. Whilst we couldn’t make out many words, Ashley’s increasing volume did allow us some insight.
“Midday?… Green Dragon, yeah? Sorted.”
“Then he said… But… pay rise?!… joking me, you daft bastard… How many hours?… Good boy, none… Anyway then I sacked him… See you soon, young Steven.”
Ashley returned, beaming. His chair slowly swivelled back into place and a little bead of excited sweat began to trickle down his cheek.
“Gents, we’re heading out.”
We were told that we’d be heading to a business meeting and piled in to one of the many cars parked outside. ‘C45HLY’ was the number plate of the gold-rimmed Range that Mike chose for us.
But our journey was disturbed. At regular intervals, the footballing chairman would abruptly call out for us to stop, before passing on his newest instruction to the driver.
“Two Bargain Buckets, eight BBQ beans, four of them nice spicy burgers and 32 pots of gravy, there’s a good lad.”
Ashley’s instructions varied at each stop, however.
“You know the drill. Make it a six-pack today, though. Stella if they got it. Failing that, K cider.”
“Go in, call him a tool, and sack him if need be. I’m not having that sort of attitude in my stores. Goddam worker’s rights my arse.”
Finally, though, we made it to the meeting’s setting.
“Pint of the usual, John. Hello, Steve, mate. Glad you could make it.”
We took up our places on a wooden stool and watched Ashley at work. And, wow, he could work. Or, to the rest of us, drink.
“Next!… Next!… Ready… Next!… Oi, chant it louder; Mikey is yer mate!”
And then things got a bit rowdy.
“Come on, lads. Let’s get this baby going. Barman, line ’em up!”
We sat in amazement as Ashley sank shot, after shot, after shot. Upon his seventh, we watched as he clambered up onto the bar, tearing his sweaty white shirt off and bellowing, with full might:
“Ain’t nobody, like Jonjo Shelvey
Makes me happy, makes me feel this way”
We began to feel uncomfortable as Ashley staggered about the room, cigar in hand, and offering the regulars ‘a swift round of the ol’ Game of Fire’. Promising that, “[he will] let you sad-acts let me drink the most.”
They didn’t seem too interested.
Then, when it appeared that we’d no longer be able to extract anything useful from the billionaire, we left.
Taking one last look behind us, we saw him now standing behind the bar. With a giant Sports Direct mug taped to each hand, Ashley didn’t notice our departure as he chugged his way to freedom.