Fobbed off: Sports Direct launches attack on business committee chair

Fobbed off: Sports Direct launches attack on business committee chair
In a letter to Reeves last month, Mike Ashley said MPs prioritised investigations into Thomas Cook & Carillion wile "ignoring cases which are just as bad, if not worse".
// Sports Direct accuses business select committee chairwoman of “fobbing off” its concerns
// Mike Ashley’s retail company has urged Debenhams & Goals Soccer Centre shareholders to “take action” against Rachel Reeves MP
// Attack comes as Ashley said he would not save any more distressed retailers in light of Mothercare’s collapse

Sports Direct has launched an attack on business select committee chairwoman Rachel Reeves, accusing her of “fobbing off” enquiries by the retailer.

Mike Ashley’s retail company urged shareholders of Debenhams and Goals Soccer Centres to “take action” against the Labour MP for Leeds West over allegations that the government has not done enough to protect investors.

The news comes shortly after the retail tycoon said Sports Direct “currently has no intention” in stepping in to save distressed retailers in light of Mothercare’s collapse into yesterday.


Sports Direct said in a statement that it had no intention to save any more retailers “while there is a lack of protection for shareholders and owners, because unscrupulous politicians are more interested in their own PR than doing what is right”.

The attack is the latest in an ongoing spat with Reeves who, until parliament was dissolved for the forthcoming General Election, had chaired the Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee since 2017.

In a letter to Reeves last month, Ashley said MPs prioritised investigations into Thomas Cook and Carillion wile “ignoring cases which are just as bad, if not worse”.

He has urged the committee to investigate Debenhams, which collapsed into administration in April, and Goals Soccer Centres, which was sold privately last week after a major accounting error was uncovered.

Sports Direct suffered significantly through the troubles of both businesses.

On Monday, Reeves told The Times that she would not accept Ashley’s “bullying” conduct in telling her committee which issues should be investigated.

Sports Direct responded that “it is clear that neither she nor the select committee she is so proud of has any intention of doing anything about the disgraceful outcomes for independent shareholders, and other stakeholders, in the Debenhams and Goals Soccer Centre debacles”.

It added: “Clearly the publicity was not great enough for her to further her own career and interests, hence she fobbed off Sports Direct’s legitimate request to look into these episodes by calling Mike Ashley a bully.”

Sports Direct was at one stage one of the most active purchasers of UK retailers but said it would keep its powder dry until there is more support from MPs.

In the past 12 months or so, Sports Direct bought Evans Cycles, House of Fraser and Jack Wills from administration, acquired and gained a majority stake in Game.

It also has stakes in fashion brand French Connection and online discount business Findel, among others.

In April, Debenhams’ administration saw Sports Direct’s near-30 per cent stake in the retailer wiped out as lenders took over the department store chain.

In August last year, Sports Direct swooped in to buy House of Fraser for £90 million in a pre-pack administration deal after its collapse put 17,000 jobs at risk.

Ashley pledged to transform the ailing department store chain into the “Harrods of the High Street” but recently admitted he regretted taking it on after discovering problems with the department store which were “nothing short of terminal”.

Sports Direct’s most recent annual results were also infamously delayed due to surprise €674 million (£605 million) tax bill from Belgian authorities.

Meanwhile, Sports Direst lost out to Canadian media mogul Doug Putman in the race to acquiring HMV in February, and was also linked with jewellery retailer Links of London, which went into administration last month.

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  1. He’s certainly nailed Reeves there. Apart from a short stint at HBOS – which collapsed of course – she was a civil service policy wonk most of her life before being parachuted into a safe Labour seat. She had a tight PR team that was great at getting her in the media until she fell out of favour with the current Labour leader which has ended – or maybe just delayed – her career ambitions. I would favour Ashley’s opinion over hers any day.


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