Mike Ashley strengthens grip on Sports Direct, taking over as CEO

Mike Ashley has taken over the chief executive position of Sports Direct after Dave Forsey stepped down from the helm yesterday.

The retailer said that Ashley, who is the founder of Sports Direct and was previously executive deputy chairman, was appointed with immediate effect following Forsey’s resignation.

Ashley also owns a 55 per cent stake in Sports Direct.

Forsey, who has been with the retailer for 32 years, said: “I have given my entire working life to the company and in return the company has given me amazing opportunities and experiences. I wish everyone at Sports Direct well in the future.”

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Sports Direct said Ashley would still be be supported by the existing executive management team, and Forsey would facilitate a “smooth handover of his responsibilities”.

Ashley said: “I feel like I have lost my right arm, but I do hope to have the opportunity to work with Dave again in the future.”

The retailer also announced Karen Byers as its new global head of operations and Sean Nevitt as its global head of commercial. Both were internal promotions with immediate effect.

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The news comes a challenging few weeks for Ashley and his sportswear retail empire, in which they faced intense scrutiny from the media, unions and MPs, as well as shareholders, over its corporate governance and “Victorian” working practices at its Shirebrook warehouse.

Ashley has also been criticised for using zero-hour contracts and paying his warehouse staff below the National Minimum Wage. He admitted the latter in June, when he was interrogated by MPs during an inquiry.

Since its recent public AGM, Sports Direct has moved to address these concerns by offering casual retail staff guaranteed hoursontracts and ensuring all warehouse staff are paid above the National Minimum Wage.

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In addition, the company said that the selection process for having a workers’ representative on the retailer’s board will be via “democratic staff elections”, in which it is anticipated that all staff directly engaged or employed by Sports Direct may vote.

Earlier this week, Sports Direct bowed to public and shareholder pressure and announced plans to undertake an independent, external review of working practices and corporate governance – after the criticism it faced for conducting an internal, initial review by its own law firm RPC.


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