Sports Direct boss steps down after House of Fraser takeover

House of Fraser

"It would be hard subdividing a building like that", he said, "but we are absolutely determined to secure a positive future for that site, whatever that may be".

Sports Direct said its chairman Keith Hellawell would step down at its annual meeting today.

Mike Ashley, founder and majority shareholder of sportwear retailer Sports Direct, leads journalists on a factory tour at the company's headquarters in Shirebrook, Britain, September 7, 2016.

Hellawell, however, said he was stepping down after overseeing significant improvements in the working practices and corporate governance of the company.

Instead the company chairman, former top cop and "drugs czar" Keith Hellawell will be facing the music.

Advisory groups ISS and Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (Pirc) had previosuly recommended voting against the re-election of Mr Hellawell because he has lost shareholder confidence and has failed to appoint any women directors to the board.

This refers to his work on House of Fraser, which has seen him visiting numerous stores in person as he negotiates with landlords to try and save around 80 per cent of the 59 stores.

The former chief constable of West Yorkshire Police had faced criticism about the way Sports Direct was run.

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Investors have been concerned about the way Sports Direct treats its workers, as well as the influence of Mike Ashley, who owns 61% of the retailer.

It is not clear whether Hellawell, a controversial figure who has been under pressure from major shareholder advisory groups, had the support of independent shareholders who had voted before the meeting, because the motions to reappoint both Hellawell and Bentley were withdrawn just before the meeting.

Concerns were also raised over the role of Michael Murray, the partner of Ashley's daughter, who provides property consultancy services to Sports Direct and holds the title "head of elevation".

Pirc considered Sports Direct's response to the report as "insufficient".

Sports Direct had said before the meeting that Ashley would not be attending due to other demands on his time.

Shareholders may also be offering their views on the company's decision to buy House of Fraser.

But, hours later and after the market closed, Sports Direct told investors: "Further to recent press speculation in relation to Debenhams plc, Sports Direct confirms that it does not intend to make an offer to acquire the entire issued and to be issued ordinary share capital of Debenhams plc".

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