Mike Ashley given bloody nose over brother

Mike Ashley is the majority owner of Sports Direct

By John-Paul Ford Rojas, Business Reporter

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has suffered his latest bloody nose at the hands of shareholders after they rejected his proposal for the company to pay his brother £11m.

Investors voted by 71% to 29% to turn down the payment to John Ashley, after the company said he had missed out on a series of benefits that should have been made available to him.

The board of the company – including billionaire tycoon Mike Ashley, who owns the majority of the business – abstained from the vote.

Sports Direct said last month that an internal probe had found John Ashley, who holds a senior IT position at the company, missed out on benefits due to him since the group's 2007 stock market flotation, for fear they would have been seen as inappropriate.

But independent shareholders rejected a move to pay him the money.

Sports Direct has blamed bad publicity and currency woes for weaker profits
Sports Direct has come under fire over working conditions

In a statement disclosing the vote, the company said: "The board trusts that shareholders will welcome the steps taken to reassure them that John Ashley did not benefit inappropriately from being the brother of majority shareholder Mike Ashley.

"In fact, John was actually disadvantaged by approximately £11m after he forewent bonuses that he would have received if he were treated equally to other executives who helped to build the company.

"By voluntarily abstaining from voting on this issue, the board has provided the company's independent shareholders the opportunity to determine whether or not to make a retrospective payment to John Ashley.

"The board respects the views of the company's independent shareholders, and considers all these matters to be closed. We now intend to move on."

It was the latest shareholder revolt faced by Mike Ashley after chairman Keith Hellawell narrowly survived in his position earlier this year – with 47% of investors voting to oust him.

Sports Direct has also been under fire over alleged "Victorian" conditions at its Shirebrook warehouse, prompting it to implement a series of workplace and pay reforms.

Meanwhile, a rollercoaster recent period for Mr Ashley has seen him involved in a high-profile £14m legal battle which centred on a claim that he reneged on a deal made in a pub.

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Mr Ashley won the case, which saw him make a colourful appearance in the witness box at the High Court where he admitted to being a "power drinker".

Separately, the tycoon, who owns Newcastle United, has been attempting to sell the Premier League club.

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