Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley eyes £67m mega bonus

Vote to give Ashley a similar reward in 2012 was pulled due to lack of shareholder support

Billionaire Mike Ashley is hoping for the third year in a row to convince Sports Direct shareholders that he deserves a huge bonus which would net the businessman an extra £67 million

The retailer has called an emergency meeting for April 4 at the company’s remote Derbyshire headquarters to approve a pay packet for the founder, who has yet to receive a salary for his role as executive deputy chairman.

The board is proposing Ashley, who pocketed a cool £1 billion when he floated the business in 2007, should be given eight million shares worth nearly £67 million at today’s share price, if certain targets are hit between now and July 2018.

A vote to give Ashley a similar reward in 2012 was pulled from the company’s annual general meeting when it was clear the board would not get the required votes from shareholders.  Last year’s meeting also had no vote on the topic despite bosses previously saying they were keen to pursue a resolution after September 2012’s failure.

Ashley will not use the voting rights his own 62 per cent stake brings him, relying on other shareholders to approve the deal which must see profits hit £330 million this year and £410 million next. Debt levels must also remain stable.

Keith Hellawell, Sports Direct’s chairman, said: “Mike Ashley, our executive deputy chairman… receives no remuneration for his substantial contribution to the success of the company, including the £3 billion of shareholder value that has been created since a scheme was originally discussed with shareholders.

“The company has already received support from its largest institutional shareholder, Odey Asset Management, who has confirmed that it intends to vote in favour of the resolution.

“The Board believes Mike is one of the outstanding retailers of his generation and all shareholders benefit from his on-going commitment.”

Sports Direct already has a bonus scheme for its full-time employees — around 10% of the total workforce — but uses zero-hour contracts for the remaining staff. Although that bonus scheme has been approved, the Ashley payouts have failed to materialise.

At the height of the so-called shareholder spring, the Association of British Insurers issued a red-top alert over the bonus proposals because of concerns they did not include other Sports Direct executives and only included one measure of performance.

Ashley, who according to Forbes is  worth $5.5 billion (£3.3 billion), declined to comment today.