Mike Ashley takes swipe at rebel Sports Direct shareholders

Mike Ashley has criticised Sports Direct shareholders who did not vote in support of re-electing chairman Keith Hellawell last week.

However, the controversial retail mogul praised Odey Asset Management founder Crispin Odey for his support, saying his decision to back the retailer and Hellawell was “highly significant” when other shareholders had been “less forthcoming”.

The hedge fund boss told The Times that Sports Direct was a “natural winner” and he was “very happy” with Ashley. 

Odey made these comments after his company became the biggest City buying an extra portion of Sports Direct shares last week – bringing its stake in the retailer beyond five per cent – and despite previously saying Ashley could not be “house trained”.

However, Odey said those previous comments describing Ashley were a “little joke” and he was among the “unusual group” of investors who supported Hellawell’s reappointment.

READ MORE: Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell successfully reappointed

In response to Odey‘s more recent comments in The Times, Ashley said: “I am grateful for Crispin’s recent comments about Sports Direct and I’m glad that we will no doubt continue to have an interesting ride together.

“I consider his backing to be highly significant at a time when others have been less forthcoming.

“I’m particularly pleased that we are in agreement over the fact that Keith Hellawell is the right man to help deliver further progress.

“We now intend to concentrate on our medium and long-term goals in order to deliver shareholder value through becoming the ‘Selfridges of Sport’.”

Last Thursday, 54 per cent of independent shareholders voted against his Hellawell‘s reappointment, but he still managed to retain his job after receiving the backing of 80.92 per cent of all shareholders, including majority-owner Ashley.

Sports Direct endured a year scandals and controversies in 2016, such as Ashley being questioned by MPs over “Victorian” working conditions at the retailer’s warehouse, to the controversial “open day” at its headquarters.

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