// Frasers Group confirms that Mike Ashley will be stepping aside as the top boss
// Michael Murray would take over in May next year, while Ashley will remain on the board as an executive director
// Frasers Group also revealed an annual profit plunge as sales were hit by enforced lockdowns
Frasers Group has confirmed speculation that its top boss Mike Ashley will be stepping away from his role as part of a leadership reshuffle.
The parent company of Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Jack Wills, Evans Cycles and Flannels said it was currently proposed that Michael Murray – the retail tycoon’s prospective son-in-law – will become chief executive in May next year.
It added that, should Murray take over, Ashley will remain on the board as an executive director.
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The 31-year-old potential replacement, who is engaged to the founder’s daughter Anna, is currently “head of elevation” at Frasers Group and has been tasked with modernising the business and creating a more upmarket image.
Frasers Group told investors that a pay and bonus deal is currently being drawn up on the basis that Murray would become chief executive.
“The group’s elevation strategy is transforming the business and receiving positive feedback from consumers and our brand partners, especially on projects such as the new Oxford Street Sports Direct which opened in June 2021,” the firm added.
“The board consider it appropriate that Michael leads us forward on this increasingly successful elevation journey.”
Ashley has been one of the high street’s most colourful characters since founding Sports Direct in 1982.
He has rapidly grown his retail empire in recent years, snapping up a number of distressed British retailers, starting with House of Fraser in 2018.
The firm was formerly known as Sports Direct International before it underwent a name change in December 2019 to reflect the direction of the business after acquiring House of Fraser.
Frasers Group also revealed today that its profits plunged for the past year after sales were hit by enforced high street closures during the pandemic.
The retail giant said pre-tax profits dived by 94.1 per cent to £8.5 million for the year to April 25, compared with £143.5 million in the previous year.
It also recorded an 8.4 per cent decline in overall revenues for the same period, to £3.63 billion.
Frasers Group cited declining sales in both UK sports retail and European retail divisions, largely due to enforced store closures from lockdowns.
However, noted an uptick of 1.9 per cent in its premium lifestyle business, to £735 million, thanks to an improved online offer and flagship store openings of the Flannels fascia.
Frasers Group also said it was now looking to continue its Elevation No Limits strategy, with a focus on store investments and warehouse capabilities.
It added that it was eyeing up a number of ex-Debenhams stores to takeover in the near future, but first called for clarity from the government on business rates to ensure the “viability of these investments and the jobs that could be created”.
Ashley said: “The group is continuing to invest in its physical and digital elevation strategy and our omni-channel offering is growing in strength.
“Our stores in the UK have reopened above expectations and our online channel continues to significantly outperform pre-Covid-19 periods.
“Nonetheless, management remains of the view that there is a high risk of future Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, likely to be over this Winter and maybe beyond.”
with PA Wires