Billionaire Mike Ashley raised many eyebrows on Wednesday when Sports Direct announced its founder had offloaded a majority stake in the retailer to a new entity named Mash Holdings Limited.

In a statement, Sports Directs claims that Mash Holdings Limited, Ashley’s investment vehicle, has offloaded a 50.71 percent stake in the retailer, which is worth close to 2,2 billion pounds, in its newly formed subsidiary, Mash Beta Limited, as a “gift.” Ashley’s remaining stake in Sports Direct, which accounts for 4.43 percent, will remain under Mash Holdings ownership.

The sudden move comes after Ashley signed a deal with US bank, Goldman Sachs to sell a 2.6 percent stake in Sports Direct, worth 117 million pounds. The sale of 15.4 million ordinary shares saw the founder of Sports Direct cut his stake down from 58 percent to 55 percent before he offloaded it to Mash Holdings. Industry insiders now speculate that Ashley could be preparing to strike a major deal, or seeking new ways to lower his tax bill.

Mash Holdings and Mash Beta now own 330,000,000 shares in Sports Direct combined, with full voting rights, which is equal to a 55.1 percent stake and means that Ashley still holds his controlling stake.


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