Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley: I want to be one of the big fish

BBC Business News

Mike Ashley has defended Sports Direct's strategy and said he still has faith in High Street retail.

"It's going to be a lot smaller pond, but the fish are going to be enormous. I want to be one of those enormous fish," he told the BBC.

His comments came after a difficult annual general meeting (AGM), where shareholders criticised his strategy.

The businessman admitted he had bitten off more than he could chew with the firm's slew of recent purchases.

Mike Ashley
Getty Images

Investors 'know what Mike Ashley is doing'

BBC Radio 5 Live

Wake Up To Money

mike ashley
Getty Images

It was Sports Direct's annual meeting on Wednesday where Mike Ashley faced criticism of his strategy. He owns 62% of Sports Direct shares, but at the meeting nearly a quarter of Sports Direct independent shareholders registered unhappiness with his strategy.

Laura Foll of Janus Henderson Investors told Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money that she was surprised there was not a bigger revolt.

But she said: "People that buy Sports Direct know full well what Mike Ashley's doing".

That is essentially buying up other businesses.

Sports Direct 'totally focused'

Mike Ashley
Getty Images

Sports Direct has issued a bullish statement after its AGM, at which a significant number of shareholders voted against Mike Ashley's re-election as director.

A spokesperson for the firm said: "We remain totally focused on delivering our elevated proposition which, following the AGM, continues to be supported by the investor community.

"We are already seeing some exciting milestones with the acquisition of Jack Wills, the opening of the new Flannels flagship store in London and plans for Frasers now in motion.

"We are building a young and dynamic executive team to assist in this transition but making sure we retain the core values in the existing business that have allowed the business to prosper over the years.

"Mike Ashley was re-elected at the AGM 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."

'Panto villain'

Mike Ashley
Getty Images

There are more tweets from the Press Association's Simon Neville who was the Sports Direct annual general meeting.

He reports that the retailer's founder, Mike Ashley, has urged the assembled shareholders to ignore "fun" in the papers about him.

“If you want me to paint me as the panto villain - carry on.”

He says that he "begged" Debenhams not to pay the dividend.

"If they hadn’t paid the dividend they’d still be there."

Sports Direct's 30% stake in Debenhams was wiped out as part of an administration process.

He is also asked “why are you obsessed with getting a Big Four auditor?” Grant Thornton has resigned but the company does not now have an auditor.

“It’s a tick box exercise, people said I couldn’t get one, I want one now. It’s like having the biggest lawyers. It’s a little achievement as you go through life.”

The meeting now over although the company is expected to announce the results of votes on resolutions at the meeting on the stock exchange later.

Sports Direct AGM nearly over...

Mike is Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, who is the company's annual general meeting in London.

View more on twitter

More from Sports Direct AGM

Press Association City Editor tweets: