Belfast Telegraph

Mike Ashley threatens boardroom coup in Goals Soccer Centres spat

The Sports Direct boss said he has lost confidence in the board.

Mike Ashley has become embroiled in another boardroom bust-up (Nick Ansell/PA)
Mike Ashley has become embroiled in another boardroom bust-up (Nick Ansell/PA)

Mike Ashley has threatened directors of Goals Soccer Centres with a boardroom coup after they rebuffed his efforts to hire an investigator of his choice.

The tycoon’s company, Sports Direct, said in a statement that it was planning to vote against the reappointment of Goals’ entire board at its annual general meeting (AGM) next week as a result of “perceived lack of transparency” over a recent accounting blunder and the resulting “loss of confidence”.

Mr Ashley had demanded that independent advisers at Kroll be appointed to look into the accounting errors, which are estimated to be worth £12 million.

But Goals responded on Friday saying this would not be appropriate as it would “be disruptive to the ongoing investigations”.

Sports Direct, which owns an 18.9% stake in Goals, responded by claiming that the appointed advisers are not independent, being a division of the company’s auditors, BDO.

It also said that, since one major shareholder sits on the board, they will have access to information which is unknown to other investors.

Sports Direct said it would make any Kroll report available for all shareholders.

The company added that the division of BDO it has appointed is separate, while additional help has been sought from RSM Tenon and a specialist VAT consultant in its discussions with the taxman.

“The board would like to re-emphasise that its investigations into historical events at the company are wide-ranging,” it said.

“These investigations cover the actions and decisions of the company over an extended period of time. Again, when the results of these investigations are clear, an appropriate announcement will be made. ”

The bust-up comes just a few months after a showdown between Sports Direct and the board of Debenhams, as the department store turned down several offers from Mr Ashley for rescue funds and his attempts to become chief executive.

The scrap resulted in the ousting of then-chairman Ian Cheshire and former CEO Sergio Bucher, when Sports Direct voted against their reappointment at an AGM.

Goals confirmed earlier this week that it has hired advisory firm Deloitte to assess future options, which could see a sale of the listed firm.

Mr Ashley is tipped to be a potential bidder to buy the company outright, adding to his shopping spree which has recently included House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and an ongoing bid for Game Digital.