Jul 7, 2017

Booze and banter puts Sports Direct in the spotlight

A London court this week heard a string of lurid allegations against Mr Ashley, founder and chief executive of FTSE 250 retailer Sports Direct, that painted a picture of a hard-drinking, hands-on manager with little time for advisers or even some of his fellow board members. Long-suffering Sports Direct investors, whose shares have dropped by two-thirds in the past three years, will have seen little to suggest that Mr Ashley will ever change a idiosyncratic management style that seems impervious to external criticism. Some who have been involved in the dialogue between the company and investors say that there is little in the court case that will change people's opinion of Mr Ashley and Sports Direct, which has spent the past few years defending its working practices and a number of controversial business deals. Mr Blue said he did not know who Mr Ashley contacted, but added: "It was apparent that he intended to arrest the decline in Sports Direct's share price by encouraging either his brokers or other close associates to buy [either] shares" in Sports Direct. "From the very day we floated Sports Direct got tagged with the reputational risk," Mr Ashley told the High Court this week, declaring the transaction - from which he earned £921m - an "Unmitigated disaster".

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