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Sports Direct attacks business select committee for ‘fobbing off’ concerns

Mike Ashley’s retailer said it has ‘no intention’ to save more distressed retailers such as Mothercare while there is a ‘lack of protection’ from MPs.

Sports Direct CEO Mike Ashley (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Sports Direct CEO Mike Ashley (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

Sports Direct has launched a stinging attack on business select committee chairwoman Rachel Reeves, accusing her of “fobbing off” enquiries by the retailer.

Mike Ashley’s sportswear retailer called on shareholders of Debenhams and Goals to “take action” against the Labour politician over allegations that the Government has not done enough to protect investors.

The retail magnate added that Sports Direct “currently has no intention” in stepping in to save distressed retailers such as Mothercare.

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Sports Direct has urged Debenhams to take action (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Sports Direct said in a statement that the company has no intention to salvage troubled rivals “while there is a lack of protection for shareholders and owners, because unscrupulous politicians are more interested in their own PR than doing what is right”.

The attack is the latest part of an ongoing spat with Ms Reeves who, until Parliament was dissolved for the forthcoming General Election, had chaired the Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee since 2017.

In a letter to her last month, Mr Ashley said MPs prioritised investigations into Thomas Cook and Carillion wile “ignoring cases which are just as bad, if not worse”.

He had called on the committee to investigate Debenhams, which collapsed into administration in April, and Goals Soccer Centres, which was sold privately last week after a major accounting error was uncovered. Sports Direct suffered significantly through the troubles of both businesses.

The retailer has previously been one of the most active purchasers of UK retailers but said it would keep its powder dry until there is more support from MPs.

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Rachel Reeves said she would not be bullied (Danny Lawson/PA)

On Monday, Ms Reeves told The Times newspaper that she would not accept the “bullying” conduct of Mr Ashley in telling her committee which issues should be investigated.

Sports Direct responded that “it is clear that neither she nor the select committee she is so proud of has any intention of doing anything about the disgraceful outcomes for independent shareholders, and other stakeholders, in the Debenhams and Goals Soccer Centre debacles.”

It added: “Clearly the publicity was not great enough for her to further her own career and interests, hence she fobbed off Sports Direct’s legitimate request to look into these episodes by calling Mike Ashley a bully.”

PA

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