The founder and chief executive of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley, has said he and the business have been “stabbed in the back” by the business’s shareholders because of repeated hounding of former chairman Keith Hellawell.
Shortly before Sports Direct’s AGM on 12 September, it was announced that Hellawell was stepping down from his role after nine years.
David Daly, non-executive director, took up the role of chairman at the conclusion of the AGM.
In a statement ,Ashley said despite going “above and beyond” to improve the reputation and performance of the business shareholders have failed to support the business: “Since taking on the role of CEO of the company following the departure of Dave Forsey, I have gone above and beyond to enable a significant leap forward in order to rebuild the reputation of Sports Direct in the City, and I have worked tirelessly with Keith Hellawell in his role as chairman to achieve this.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
In recent years, Hellawell and Ashley faced several shareholder rebellions, and have come under fire over alleged corporate governance failings and concerns about employment practices.