Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley steps down as Frasers Group boss

5 August 2021, 09:49

Mike Ashley is stepping down as Frasers Group boss
Mike Ashley is stepping down as Frasers Group boss. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Billionaire Mike Ashley is to step down as Frasers Group's top boss following a reshuffle.

The Sports Direct founder's prospective son-in-law Michael Murray is set to become chief executive in May next year.

Mr Ashley will stay on the board as an executive director at the company, the parent of Sports Direct, House of Fraser and Flannels.

Mr Murray, 31, who is engaged to Mr Ashley's daughter Anna, is "head of elevation" at Frasers and focuses on modernising and creating a more upmarket image.

"The group's elevation strategy is transforming the business and receiving positive feedback from consumers and our brand partners, especially on projects such as the new Oxford Street Sports Direct which opened in June 2021," the company said.

"The board consider it appropriate that Michael leads us forward on this increasingly successful elevation journey."

Read more: Sports Direct's Mike Ashley apologises over Covid-19 response

Mr Ashley has attracted controversy
Mr Ashley has attracted controversy. Picture: Alamy

Pre-tax profits at Frasers dropped by 94.1% to £8.5 million for the year to April 25, compared to £143.5 million in the previous year.

Mr Ashley said: "The group is continuing to invest in its physical and digital elevation strategy and our omni-channel offering is growing in strength.

"Our stores in the UK have reopened above expectations and our online channel continues to significantly outperform pre-Covid-19 periods.

"Nonetheless, management remains of the view that there is a high risk of future Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, likely to be over this Winter and maybe beyond."

Mr Ashley founded his first Sports Direct store in Maidenhead, Berkshire, in 1982.

He has grown his business interests to a famous retail empire worth roughly £3 billion, with 1,000 stores.

He has not always made headlines for the right reasons, however.

The tycoon apologised for trying to claim his shops were essential in the first Covid lockdown last year, and staff treatment at his warehouses has also been sharply criticised.

Mr Ashley has also been deeply unpopular at Newcastle United, the Premier League football club he owns and which he continues to try and sell to a Saudi-backed consortium.