The boyfriend of Mike Ashley’s daughter is in line for a multimillion-pound payout from the billionaire’s Sports Direct empire, after the company revealed that he will head a property division with a £250m war chest.
Mike Murray, who is in a relationship with Mr Ashley’s eldest daughter, Anna, has to find new sites for Sports Direct and locations for the company’s chain of gyms, which have stores attached. However, Mr Murray has no property experience, according to Companies House, and his only business acumen is running student party events at Reading University, where he used to study. According to friends, he enjoys sports, eating at Nando’s and watching football, including Newcastle United, which is owned by Mr Ashley. Mr Murray also hosted his first music festival last July with his business partner and friend from university, Toby Mullins.
Sports Direct said in a statement: “Michael has a consultancy arrangement with the company, is not paid a salary, and … is not a director of any company within the Sports Direct Group.
“His remuneration is based solely on creating value, with the company’s non-executive directors overseeing an independent review annually and deciding, in their absolute discretion, how much of any increased value (up to a maximum of 25 per cent) shall be paid to Michael.”
This could lead to Mr Murray becoming a multimillionaire, if he is successful.
The company also pointed out that he is not listed as a director of any Sports Direct businesses, although he is a director of a handful of private businesses owned by Mr Ashley through his Mash web of companies. Mr Murray is also a director of Strawberry Place Newcastle Limited, which is a property business associated with Mr Ashley’s Newcastle United. The 26-year-old is still listed as a shareholder in a party promotion business, TM Bars Limited, which he set up with Mr Mullins.
He now lives with Miss Ashley in a flat in Chelsea, just a stone’s throw from Harrods and not far from where Mr Ashley made a £200m investment in John Lewis’s former Peter Jones warehouse.
The property is registered to Mr Murray, which he bought for £10.75m two and a half years ago, with cash lent by Mr Ashley, according to Land Registry documents.
The couple previously lived in a nearby three-storey mews house, which was bought by Mr Ashley’s youngest daughter, Matilda, for £5.1m four months ago.
At Sports Direct, Mr Murray will be expected to help rebuild the company’s prospects, which have been hit recently by poor results, as the retailer lost out to rivals including JD Sports, while an expansion into Austria has hit profits.
Shares have recently hit two-and-a-half year lows and analysts have criticised Mr Ashley’s use of the company, in which he has a 55 per cent stake, for making investments in other companies including Debenhams, Tesco, Direct Golf and Findel.
Poor working practices, which include the widespread use of zero hours contracts, have also been attacked by politicians and unions, leading to the announcement of a 15p-an-hour pay rise last week.