Newcastle United soccer club owner Mike Ashley ups Rangers stake

LONDON (Reuters) - Mike Ashley, the owner of English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United, has doubled his stake in Glasgow's Rangers International Football Club to almost 9 percent.

Ashley, the founder of retail group Sports Direct, bought northeast England's Newcastle United in 2007, and prior to Friday's announcement had owned a minority stake of 4.5 percent in Rangers, the former Scottish champions.

Regulatory announcements published on Thursday show Ashley now owns an 8.92 percent stake in Rangers through his MASH Holdings Limited company, which owns also Newcastle United.

At that level, Ashley is close to the 10 percent limit of Rangers ownership that he has agreed with the Scottish football association.

Rangers in September attempted to raise 4 million pounds ($6.5 million) to ensure its financial stability, but an open offer fell short of target, returning 3.1 million.

Newcastle United said last month that Mike Ashley remained committed to the club, responding to a report in a British newspaper which said he would consider offers and was interested in taking control of Rangers.

Ashley is renowned for taking minority stakes in companies or taking bets on their future performance via options.

In September, he entered into a put option agreement on a small stake in Britain's biggest grocer Tesco. In 2007, he amassed a 3 pct stake in Adidas valued at 200 million pounds, selling it two months later for a profit of nearly 30 percent.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Mark Potter)

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