Mike Ashley to Step Down from Leading Sports Direct Group

Mike Ashley to Step Down from Leading Sports Direct Group.
The BBC is reporting that Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley is to step down from leading his retail empire and hand the reins to his future son-in-law. The board of Frasers Group, which also owns House of Fraser, said talks were underway for Michael Murray, 31, to succeed the billionaire on 1 May 2022.

The move would see Mr Ashley step down from as chief executive but remain on the board as an executive director. Mr Ashley founded Sports Direct in 1982 and retains 64% of the group.

Mr Murray, engaged to be married to Mr Ashley’s daughter Anna, is currently “head of elevation” at Frasers and is in charge of modernising stores and transforming the business.

In the stock market statement, Frasers Group said it was “currently proposed” that Mr Murray would assume the role of chief executive, with a “reward and remuneration package” now being considered.

“The board considers it appropriate that Michael leads us forward on this increasingly successful elevation journey,” Fraser’s Group said.

Mr Murray has been working for the group for several years, but his role at the company raised eyebrows after reports about him being paid millions of pounds in consultancy fees.

Mr Ashley has been one of the High Street’s most prominent and colourful figures since founding his business. He has rapidly grown the operation in recent years, snapping up a number of distressed British brands including House of Fraser, Evans Cycles, Jack Wills and Game.

The group is now worth around £3bn and operates almost 1,000 shops.

Mr Ashley was previously executive deputy chairman of the retail group – which changed its name from Sports Direct International to Frasers Group last year – until 2016, when long-serving chief executive Dave Forsey resigned.

Frasers Group revealed the leadership change in its latest full-year trading figures on Thursday, in which it said its revenue fell 8.4% to £3.6bn from £3.9bn in 2020.

Its sports retail revenue also decreased by 10.7% from £2.2bn to £1.9bn due store closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company said.

Pre-tax profits also dived by 94.1% to £8.5m for the year to 25 April, compared with £143.5m in the previous year.

In a statement, Mr Ashley said: “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.

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