Friday 22 March 2019

Mike Ashley launches boardroom coup to take over Debenhams

Mike Ashley (Nick Ansell/PA)
Mike Ashley (Nick Ansell/PA)

Patrick Graham

Sports Direct Chief Executive Mike Ashley plans to leave his current role and the retailer’s board to focus on running British department store group Debenhams, the company said in a statement.

Sports Direct, which owns a near 30pc stake in Debenhams, said it was calling for a general meeting of Debenhams shareholders to remove all but one of the existing board members and appoint Mr Ashley to an executive role.

He would then forego his position as chief executive of Sports Direct, the discount sports goods and clothing powerhouse he has built into one of Britain’s most recognisable retail names.

If the plan goes through, Chris Wootton, currently Sports Direct’s deputy chief financial officer, would step up to take the role of acting chief executive, the company added.


“If Mr Ashley were to be appointed to the board of directors of Debenhams during this business critical period for Debenhams, Mr Ashley would carry out an executive role, and would focus on the Debenhams business,” the mid-cap company said.

The news comes just days after Debenhams, which has struggled to keep pace with consumers moving online and to cheaper rivals, warned on profit again, as it edged nearer to a restructuring.

The department store chain is one of a series of major deals Mr Ashley has done over the past two years to take dominant stakes in some of Britain’s struggling high street chains. He recently took over high-end retailer House of Fraser.

Earlier this year, Mr Ashley and another shareholder forced Debenhams chief executive Sergio Bucher off the board and then-chairman Ian Cheshire out of the company following a drop in Christmas sales.


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