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11 December 2015, 14:15
The bitter legal dispute between Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley and Rangers FC chairman Dave King has taken a new twist with a courtroom denial that the Ibrox club has repaid a £5 million loan to the billionaire businessman.
The legal team acting for Mr King had told a High Court hearing in London that the loan had been repaid to Mr Ashley in full.
But on Friday, the second day of the hearing, David Quest QC, acting for Mr Ashley, told a judge that was not the case.
Mr Quest said the claim had come as a surprise and been investigated.
He told Mr Justice Peter Smith: "That is not correct. The £5 million has not been repaid.''
Mr Quest said an email had revealed the club was still waiting to collect ``another £500,000.''
Mr Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United FC, had earlier failed to have Mr King jailed for allegedly breaching a gagging order.
The judge rejected the application. But he has still to rule on whether or not Mr King is in contempt of court for breaching confidentiality undertakings. The case is due to be heard in January.
The London legal battles are the latest development in a conflict which started when Mr King took over running Rangers and centres on the commercial arrangements between the club and Sports Direct and its subsidiaries.
Mr Ashley and his company applied for Mr King's committal to prison on the grounds that he gave a Sky Sports interview revealing the existence of a meeting and discussions related to contracts between Sports Direct and Rangers.
But the judge wondered aloud what was the point of both sides spending a total of some £400,000 on the legal action.
The judge queried whether Mr Ashley was interested in having a ``sensible'' business relationship with Mr King ``or grinding him into the dust''.
The judge said: ``Maybe he is interested. I don't know.''
Mr Quest said Mr King had stated that he had no recollection of whether or not he said the words complained of from the Sky Sports interview.
But the court was entitled to draw inferences against him to the criminal standard required for an individual to be jailed for contempt.
The judge replied: ``I am not going to send a person to prison on an inference.''
He also expressed concern that Mr King was not being called to be cross-examined in the witness box, but reliance was being placed on media reports.