Sports Direct chairman resigning after nine controversial years

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Keith Hellawell has spent nine years at the head of the sporting retailer, during which time he was  met with criticism about the working conditions at the Sports Direct warehouses.


The chairman of sporting retail giant Sports Direct, Keith Hellawell, is stepping down from the role after nine years in charge.   

His time at the company was marred with controversy after allegations of poor working conditions in the store’s warehouses were made public.

Mr Hellawell, a former West Yorkshire Police chief constable and government drugs tsar, will retire with immediate effect after Wednesday’s annual meeting and is due to be replaced by non-executive director David Daly.

Keith Hellawell has spent nine years at the head of the sporting retailer, during which time he was  met with criticism about the working conditions at the Sports Direct warehouses.

Keith Hellawell has spent nine years at the head of the sporting retailer, during which time he was met with criticism about the working conditions at the Sports Direct warehouses.

Senior non-executive director and former Blacks Leisure Group boss Simon Bentley is to also set to retire after 11 years on the board. 

Chief executive Mike Ashley said: ‘I would like to thank Keith and Simon for their valuable service and significant contributions to the company over the years.’

Mr Hellawell was met with criticism during his time as chairman after accusations of substandard working conditions at Sports Direct’s warehouses were revealed.

He was also under scrutiny for his approach to corporate governance, only narrowly surviving a re-election vote at the company’s AGM last year, when 47 per cent of investors voted against him.

Several advisory groups with significant influence had previously encouraged shareholders to oppose his re-election again, highlighting that Mr Hellawell had lost shareholder confidence and had not managed to appoint any female directors to the board. 

Mr Hellawell, however, claimed that he made positive changes in his time as chairman. 

‘Having overseen significant improvements in the working practices and corporate governance of the company, which includes a refresh of the board, now is the right time for me to step aside,’ he said on Wednesday.

‘I have every confidence that the group will continue to go from strength to strength. I have enjoyed the challenges of Sports Direct and the support of Mike Ashley; many major investors; members of the board and senior staff, and wish them much success for the future.’

Nicola Frampton, who is managing director of bookmaker William Hill’s UK retail division, is set to join the board next month.

Sports Direct has reported a rise in it's underlying earnings and has recently acquired department store chain House of Fraser in a £90 million deal.

Sports Direct has reported a rise in it's underlying earnings and has recently acquired department store chain House of Fraser in a £90 million deal.

Sports Direct has reported a rise in it’s underlying earnings and has recently acquired department store chain House of Fraser in a £90 million deal.

As Sports Direct gets ready for its annual meeting, it has announced it is on course to meet expectations in the current year.

The sporting goods firm earlier revealed on Wednesday morning that it is set to achieve between 5 per cent and 15 per cent growth in underlying earnings, not including the company’s recent £90 million acquisition of House of Fraser.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said of the performance update: ‘It’s not unkind to suggest that a 10 percentage point spread is an absolute barn door of a target and it would have been a big surprise had it missed.’

He continued to say that there are still questions that need answering regarding the impact of the House of Fraser acquisition on Sports Direct shareholders. 

Shares were 3.7 per cent higher in early trading on Wednesday at 353.6p after initially dipped on Tuesday after a ruling by the High Court.

A High Court judge dealt a blow to Sports Direct in its ongoing dispute with the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

The retailer was ordered to provide a number of documents relating to its 2016 financial statements to help the FRC’s investigation into auditing firm Grant Thornton.

Sports Direct said it plans to appeal ‘aspects of the judgement in due course’.

 

 

 

 



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