Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Sports Direct staff handed £75,000 each in shares windfall

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Staff at Mike Ashley's Sports Direct have popped open the champagne after the sportswear giant said it will hand them shares worth over £75,000 each after smashing full-year profit targets.

But the group, which has three stores in Northern Ireland, has decided not to put to shareholders a "super-stretch" bonus share scheme for Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United Football Club, and is considering other ways to reward the billionaire, who does not take a Sports Direct salary.

Despite its barnstorming performance, the retailer again refused to pay a dividend, explaining that it wants to preserve its cash pile, largely for potential acquisitions in Europe.

Sports Direct is to award 2,000 staff an average of 12,000 shares each next month, which, based on yesterday's share price of 627p, are worth £75,240 each, equal to a pot of £150m. This is in addition to the typical share award of £15,000 that Sports Direct gave employees, with an average salary of £20,000, last year.

The scheme is easily the retail sector's most lucrative for shop floor staff and puts even the much-vaunted John Lewis Partnership, the owner of the eponymous department store and grocer Waitrose, in the shade.

Sports Direct posted underlying profits up by 22% to £287.9m over the year to April 28, a bumper 12 months for sport, powering past its target of £250m set under the 2011 bonus share scheme.

The group is on track for entry into the FTSE 100 after a meteoric rise in its shares, which had fallen to as low as 32p in December 2008 after its float at 300p the previous year.

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