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Renewed calls for Sports Direct chair to step down

Sports Direct shareholder Aberdeen Asset Management and shareholder advice group Pirc have increased pressure on Sports Direct to get rid of its chairman, Keith Hellawell.

Keith Hellawell chairman Sports Direct

Keith Hellawell chairman Sports Direct

Keith Hellawell

Shareholders will meet on Thursday to decide whether Hellawell should keep his position on the board.

It comes after a majority of Sports Direct’s independent shareholders voted against re-electing Hellawell at the retailer’s annual general meeting (AGM) in September 2016. 

Under UKLA listing rules, the resolution had to be put to all shareholders at a second meeting held within 90 to 120 days of the AGM. 

Hellawell has previously said he will step down if shareholders vote against him in the second ballet. However, Sports Direct chief executive Mike Ashley, who is a controlling shareholder at the company, is expected to use his voting power to save Hellawell.

Paul Lee, head of corporate governance at Aberdeen Asset Management, said he remained “deeply concerned” about Sports Direct’s governance and would oppose Hellawell’s re-election.

Pirc said Hellawell had “failed to show leadership” or “address the employment practices issues raised by some shareholders and trade unions”.

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