Mike Ashley has accused minority shareholders of his sportswear giant Sports Direct of “stabbing” him and its former chairman in the back.
Following Sports Direct’s annual general meeting (AGM) earlier this week, which marked the culmination of growing shareholder discontent aimed at Ashley and chairman of nine-years Keith Hellawell, the billionaire hit back at his shareholders.
“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,” Ashley said.
“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.
“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.”
There has been increasing calls for both Ashley and Hellawell, who announced his resignation hours prior to the meeting, to step down amid allegations of poor working conditions and corporate governance failures.
On Wednesday, workers union Unite’s assistant general secretary said: “It’s about time he resigned. During his tenure he has presided over shocking working conditions at the Shirebrook warehouse.
“The question now is will his replacement stand up to Mike Ashley in the interests of workers and shareholders.”
Earlier today it was revealed that EY, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) have all refused to take on an audit of Sport Direct because of potential conflicts of interest and concerns over reputation.