Published On: Sat, Sep 15th, 2018

‘Stab in back’ angers Ashley

His outburst will fuel speculation that Ashley is considering taking the sportswear business private, 11 years after it was floated on the stock market. 

Chief executive Ashley, who owns 61 per cent of the £1.9billion company, said he had “worked tirelessly” with Hellawell to rebuild the firm’s reputation in the City.

This improvement had been recognised by a number of independent indexes, while young talent had been attracted to secure its leading position over the next two decades. 

Ashley said: “Despite the undoubted good performance of Sports Direct, 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 only proves that whatever progress we make, it will always be subject to disproportionate scrutiny and misrepresentation.

“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 they have stabbed Sports Direct and myself in the back by repeatedly hounding Keith Hellawell.” 

But the Institute of Directors’ Roger Barker said: “Shareholders play a vital stewardship role in holding company boards to account and they have every right to express their opinion in the decisions made.

“Companies who engage with investors and take their concerns into account will, unsurprisingly, benefit from a far more fruitful relationship than those who don’t.”

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