Sports Direct, the controversial company that sells cut-price sportswear, has bought a large chunk of central Brixton.
Following an eight-figure deal, it now owns the land bordered by the two Brixton railway lines, Pope’s Road and Valentia Place.
It is currently home, among others, to Brixton Beach Boulevard and three shops fronting Pope’s Road. Older residents may remember it was the site of Tesco before the store moved to Acre Lane.
And it’s a stone’s throw from Pop Brixton and Network Rail’s arches on Atlantic and Brixton Station Roads.
SDI (Brixton) Limited bought the land for £11,750,000 earlier this year. Land Registry documents show that its previous owners granted 125-year leases in 1965 to the British Railways Board – a likely precursor to Network Rail – and City and Central Shops Limited, part of property giant Land Securities.
SDI Brixton was created three years ago and one of its directors is Dotun Adegoke, chief buyer for Sports Direct. Mike Ashley, the founder and inspiration of Sports Direct, was a founding director, but resigned in October last year.
Sports Direct’s headquarters is in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, once a coal-mining town, but now notorious for Sports Direct’s use of zero-hour contracts in its giant warehouse.
A committee of MPs said it was run like a Victorian workhouse and that its workers were treated “without dignity or respect”.
Committee chairman Iain Wright (Labour, Hartlepool, now retired) said: “For this to occur in the UK in 2016 is a serious indictment of the management at Sports Direct and Mike Ashley, as the face of Sports Direct, must be held accountable for these failings.”
Ashley at first refused to talk to the MPs’ committee but later agreed Sports Direct had broken the law by failing to pay the national minimum wage.
He told his annual general meeting in 2016 that Sports Direct was planning to actively change its property portfolio to move into bigger stores.
He said the company would buy large buildings with separate floors dedicated to different brands.
There was speculation that the new, larger, premises would be branded as USC stores – also owned by Ashley – that try to foster an upmarket image and could let floors to actual sportswear brands.
The nearest Sports Direct stores to Brixton at the moment are in Clapham, Streatham and Walworth Road.
Ashley, also owner of Newcastle United football club, told a High Court judge in July this year that he is a “power drinker” who likes to get drunk. He was giving evidence in a case in which he was being sued (unsuccessfully) for £14 million by an investment banker.
Earlier the court had heard that he held management meetings in pubs and once was sick in a fireplace after 12 pints.