Sports Direct PLC’s (LON:SPD) shareholders voted in large numbers against the re-election of the retailer’s founder and CEO Mike Ashley as director at Wednesday’s fractious annual general meeting.

Almost a quarter of independent shareholders voted against the billionaire’s re-election, however, given that Ashley owns 62% of the company, as expected, he was still overwhelmingly backed to continue in the role.

In a brief statement, Sports Direct said: “Mike Ashley was re-elected… with over 90% of the vote and the audited accounts for the year ended 28 April 2019 were also approved by over 99% of shareholders.”

Ashley has been criticised for a spending spree which has seen Sports Direct buy numerous struggling retailers, including collapsed department stores group House of Fraser for £90mln last year.

At the time Ashley said he wanted to turn House of Fraser into the “Harrods of the High Street”, however, reporting a dire set of full-year results in July, Sports Direct said it regretted the acquisition, describing problems at House of Fraser as “nothing short of terminal”.

The group also took a big hit after the Belgian government claimed the retailer owed it €674mln (£605mln) in taxes.

Recent spending spree

Ashley’s recent purchases include Evans Cycles, clothing outlets Flannels and Cruise, and lingerie firm Agent Provocateur.

Sports Direct is also in the process of taking control of Game Digital, and on Tuesday there were reports that the firm is bidding for High Street jeweller Links of London.

Ashley also tried to become chief executive of Debenhams earlier this year, but instead his stake in the chain was wiped out when the retailer was taken over by its lenders. He has also failed in a bid for music retailer HMV and pulled out of bidding for collapsed bakery chain Patisserie Valerie.

Sports Direct are down by about 25% over the year, but added 0.15% on Wednesday to close at 264.80p.

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