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Ashley sued over £15 million pub deal

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley is in the High Court over a £14 million breach of agreement.

Ashley is being sued by Jeff Blue, the company’s former strategic development director.

Blue claims that Ashley breached an agreement made in a pub in London in 2013. The pair had been out drinking, when Ashley allegedly promised Blue £15 million if he doubled Sports Direct’s share price within a three-year period.

Sports Direct’s share price reached £8 for the first time in February 2014, with Ashley paying Blue £1 million for his assistance, although no records were made of the payment.

Ashley alleges that the payment was not in relation to any deal made with Blue on the night out. Blue is now taking Ashley to court for the £14 million he was allegedly promised.

The Financial Times reports that Blue said Ashley “said words to the effect of which was… if he can get the stock to £8 per share why should I give a f*** how much I have to pay him, as I will have made so much money it doesn’t matter”.

Ashley has issued a statement against Blue’s allegations. In it he states that a “considerable amount of alcohol was drunk” and that no formal agreement had been made.


Sports Direct workers still waiting for back pay

A large number of Sports Direct employees are still waiting for back pay as part compensation into being paid under the minimum wage.

MP’s were told by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee that Transline, one of the employment agencies at the heart of a Guardian investigation last year looking at staff from the retailer being paid less than the minimum wage, had refused to pay back any monies owed.

In August last year Transline agreed to paying back workers at a cost of up to £1 million, with some workers owed over £1,000 in back pay. The payments were to be backdated to May 2012.

However, unions expressed concerns at the time that Transline would renege on the deal before it took over contracts from a rival agency, Blue Arrow, in 2014.

Addressing the BEIS, Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, told MPs that Transline had refused to pay the back payment for the non payment of national minimum wage for the period of employment that employees had before Transline took over the contract, refusing to honour the transfer of undertakings regulations (known as Tupe) as a result.

“This is a huge issue,” commented Turner. “This is hundreds and hundreds of pounds for thousands of workers, where Best Connection, the other agency, has honoured the agreement and paid in full. Sports Direct has paid in full. But one agency, Transline, has decided it’s not going to do that.”

A spokesperson for Transline responded “All back payments have been made to Transline employees over the period in question (2014-2016). For those employees that worked for Blue Arrow and then transferred to Transline, we have been working with HM Revenue & Customs and are awaiting their guidance on how Tupe applies to the period that those employees worked for Blue Arrow. We will act according to their feedback as soon as this is received.”

Blue Arrow has yet to provide a comment.

In a letter to the BEIS committee last September, Transline said that it had undertaken a full review to make sure its “operations are fully compliant.”


Sports Direct Founder Targets Fellow Shareholders

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has taken a swipe at the ‘rebel’ shareholders at the company, while rescuing embattled chairman Keith Hellawell for a second time who was voted down for reappointment.

A vote in September by shareholders at a tumultuous AGM had seen 53% of independent investors oppose Mr Hellawell’s stewardship of the company – beset by allegations of corporate governance and working practice failures.

He was saved then mainly because of billionaire chief executive Mr Ashley’s dominant voting rights.

Shareholders have now once again delivered a blow to the company after a further vote on his re-election to the board – under City rules – at the firm’s Derbyshire HQ, which also contains its controversial main warehouse.

Some 54% of shareholders rejected his reappointment in the second vote. Investors such as Aberdeen Asset Management and Royal London had publicly opposed him prior to the vote.

Mr Ashley said: “Keith has my full backing and will be continuing in his role on the basis that he has the unanimous support of the board.

“I note that many of those who voted against Keith have acknowledged that we have made positive progress since the AGM.”

Mr Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United, ordered an overhaul on pay, governance and working practices after admitting some staff were being paid less than the minimum wage.

However, a 25% dip in half-year profits announced in December prompted a backlash from Mr Hellawell who accused the media, unions and politicians of ‘giving the company a bad name’.