Sports Direct staff 'are sitting on shares'

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The Independent Online

Sports Direct has hailed its share bonus scheme as an "absolute game changer", as it confirmed that thousands of staff are sitting on shares worth more than £50,000. The sportswear market leader – controlled by its deputy executive chairman Mike Ashley (pictured), who owns Newcastle United Football Club – increased its underlying profits by 12 per cent to £235.7m for the year to 29 April.

This was the third year running it had smashed the earnings target of its share bonus scheme for staff, which started in 2009. Under the first part of the scheme, 2,000 staff at Sports Direct will be able to cash in 5,000 shares worth nearly £15,000 in August.

Employees have also been handed 12,000 shares – valued at just under £36,000, based on today's share price of 295p. Dave Forsey, chief executive of Sports Direct, said: "I think it has been an absolute game changer since it was introduced," referring to the scheme's impact on staff retention and service in stores. Under the extended share bonus scheme to 2015, Mr Ashley will be granted eight million shares worth nearly £24m based on today's price.

He will receive the payout if underlying profits rise by 70 per cent over four years to £340m in 2015 and if the retailer maintains a ratio of net debt to profit of 1.5 times or less.