Mike Ashley accuses shareholders of ‘stabbing Sports Direct in the back’

Mike Ashley: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Mike Ashley, the owner of Shirebrook-based Sports Direct, says the company’s shareholders have “stabbed the company in the back”.

In an extraodinary statement to the London Stock Exchange, Ashley accuses the company’s shareholders of being “affected by the pressure of the media and certain other organisations”.

The outburst comes after Keith Hellawell stepped down as Sport Direct chairman ahead of this week’s AGM after pressure from shareholders who said they would vote against his re-election. Some 10% of shareholders voted against Ashley to return as director.

In the statement, Ashley adds: “Despite significant challenges within the retail sector in the UK and beyond, which have resulted in many retailers failing, Sports Direct has continued to perform well and exceed market expectations. As I stated on Wednesday, the acquisition of House of Fraser will be a game changer. I welcome its staff and suppliers into the Sports Direct family, and we look forward to building a brighter and significant future.

“Despite this progress and the undoubted good performance of Sports Direct led by Keith Hellawell and myself, the Company’s shareholders appear to be affected by the pressure of the media and certain other organisations, and they have failed to support Sports Direct, Keith and myself, on this journey.

“It is blatantly apparent that true entrepreneurs will never be accepted in the public arena. The media circus surrounding Sports Direct, including but not restricted to matters connected to our AGM, only proves that whatever progress Sports Direct makes, it will always be subject to disproportionate scrutiny and misrepresentation.

“In light of the above, and despite the substantial progress made over the last few years, the shareholders have now made it extremely challenging for future engagement to take place. On the one hand they are delighted with our performance and progress, yet with the other hand they have stabbed Sports Direct and myself in the back by repeatedly hounding Keith Hellawell.

“The people within the Sports Direct group, including House of Fraser, are and will continue to be my number one priority.”