Mike Ashley, the chief executive of Sports Direct and its largest stock holder, has praised investor Crispin Odey for increasing his stake in the business while controversy over corporate governance continues to dog the company.
Odey, a hedge fund manager, increased his stake in Sports Direct to more than 5% last week, and voted for the retention of chairman of Keith Hellawell—even though a majority of independent shareholders voted against. Hellawell retained his position after Ashley, who owns more than 55% of the business, used his votes to back him.
In a report in The Times at the weekend, Odey described Ashley as a “natural winner”. He added: “I am very happy to be buying anything on eight times’ earnings, especially when they have a proven track record like Sports Direct.”
Ashley issued a statement to the stock market, which said: “I am grateful for Crispin’s recent comments about Sports Direct and I’m glad that we will no doubt continue to have an interesting ride together. I consider his backing to be highly significant at a time when others have been less forthcoming.
“I’m particularly pleased that we are in agreement over the fact that Keith Hellawell is the right man to help deliver further progress. We now intend to concentrate on our medium and long-term goals in order to deliver shareholder value through becoming the ‘Selfridges of Sport’.”
Sports Direct is expected to produce an independent review of corporate governance after making headlines in the press over the treatment of workers at distribution centre.