Soccer tycoon stakes £480K on one spin of roulette wheel ... and wins £1.3m
By CHRISTOPHER LEAKE
Last updated at 23:36 03 May 2008
High-rolling Mike Ashley collected the windfall after betting a total of £480,000 on his lucky number, black 17 – the same number favoured by James Bond.
The maverick retail tycoon placed bets on every combination that included 17 – such as the wheel stopping on black, odd and a number between 1 and 18 – in a complex bet known as a "complete".
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Winner: Mike Ashley cheers on Newcastle United with fellow fan
As the chips piled up before the spin, fellow punters in the luxurious 50 London casino in St James Street, Mayfair, where 45-year-old Mr Ashley is a regular, gathered around the table.
Divorcee Mr Ashley watched impassively as the roulette wheel turned.
As the ball dropped into slot 17, the expectant crowd broke out into loud applause.
Mr Ashley calmly looked up at the croupier and said: "That'll do me, thanks very much," and walked off with his winnings.
He had spent just 15 minutes at the table.
One onlooker said: "Mike's a regular at the casino. He'd come along with a group of male friends and placed what's known as a complete bet on 17.
"His chips surrounded the number in every possible combination, and when he won the crowd went wild and clapped and cheered. Everyone loves a winner."
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Soon afterwards, Mr Ashley, who jealously guards his privacy, left the casino, which dates from 1827 and charges £650 a year membership, with his winnings.
The number 17 is said to be one of the most common bets in roulette as it lies in the exact centre of the table.
Mr Ashley placed a house maximum of £2,000 on the number 17, which won him £70,000 at odds of 35-1.
The rest of his winnings came from the complex "complete" bet, which is generally not advised by gamblers as it is tantamount to "putting all your eggs in one basket".
One London casino source said: "This gentleman certainly knows his roulette, and left no stone unturned when he played."
Notoriously shy, Mr Ashley was once described as "Britain's answer to Howard Hughes".
But he has been increasingly spotted at Newcastle United matches – when he wears the number 17 shirt.
But Mr Ashley has also racked up some substantial gambling losses.
Last year, he is thought to have lost £129million on spread bets, predicting that shares in the high street bank HBOS would rise in the first part of 2008.
But the bank was hit hard by the credit crunch and its shares fell significantly.
Grammar school-educated Mr Ashley was brought up in a modest bungalow in Burnham, Buckinghamshire.
After leaving school at 16, he opened a chain of sports and ski shops in London and by the late Nineties had more than 100 shops nationwide.
He took over a series of businesses, regularly using "closing down" signs to boost sales.
Mr Ashley banked £929million when he floated his Sports Direct retail chain in February last year.
The group, which employs 20,000 staff, has more than 400 UK shops and includes Sports World, Lillywhites and the Original Shoe Company.
His current empire includes the leading sports brands Dunlop Slazenger, Donnay, Kangol and Lonsdale.
Last year, he bought Newcastle United for £135million.
His business nous has made him one of Britain's wealthiest men, and he currently stands at No 54 in the Sunday Times Rich List.
A spokesman for Mr Ashley said last night: "Mike has no comment to make."
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