Lie – Mike Ashley Won’t Attend The Sports Direct Annual General Meeting

The Guardian, September 9th 2018

As the owner of Newcastle United Football Club, Sports (re)Direct tycoon Mike Ashley is used to being shouted at for 90 minutes by angry people dissatisfied with his stewardship. Happily, he will face no such ordeal at next week’s Sports (re)Direct annual meeting, thanks to a stroke of genius on his part. He isn’t going to show up.

It’s rather unusual for a company to hold an AGM without the presence of its chief executive, not to mention its largest shareholder. But then Ashley, who, a court heard, once vomited into a fireplace during a drinking session with business associates, is no ordinary chief executive.

In the retail billionaire’s absence, investors are expected to air grievances about the company’s rather idiosyncratic governance style. The list of shareholder gripes is extensive. Among them is the company’s habit of dishing out huge piles of cash to Ashley’s family members.

To the complete surprise of nobody anywhere, Mike Ashley did turn up for the AGM in the end.  The stories put about that he would be avoiding this particular calendar entry were a clear ploy to dissuade the enemies he’s built up (Newcastle fans, unions, MPs, shareholders, denim conservationists) from turning up to voice any dissatisfaction with him.

Despite his presence, little criticism permeated into the AGM where “any other business” was  not on the agenda and no questions from the floor were allowed.  Ashley ensured that this would not be the main story about his shop though, by announcing a board-room reshuffle minutes before the AGM, which saw the Sports (re)Direct stock price perk up a little and dominated the headlines in the immediate aftermath.

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