Sport Direct owner Mike Ashley has said the sportswear retailer is “in trouble” and blamed a “media frenzy” surrounding its working practices for a fall in profits.
In an interview with The Times, he claimed the former Labour leader Ed Miliband had cost Sports Direct employees £60m in lost bonus payouts when he accused the chain of Victorian working practices.
Ashley pointed out that he invited MPs to visit Sports Direct’s warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, to prove allegations that workers were mistreated are unfounded, but none have so far attended.
He has personally overseen a review of working conditions at the site and an independent consultant will assess his findings, he told the newspaper.
Sports Direct’s share price has fallen from 805p last summer to 423.75p at the close yesterday, which he said meant the value of its new bonus share payout scheme for staff had halved in the first year. A directly-employed cleaner who earned a £48,000 bonus in 2013 would receive just £19,227 in 2017.
However, approximately 75% of Sports Direct’s 15,000 workers are understood to be on zero-hour contracts so would not be eligible to receive the bonus.
“The shares are like wallpaper to me, but for the staff this [the bonus] is life-changing,” Ashley said.
His message for MPs was: “You are not helping the people who work at Sports Direct — you are hurting them.”