The Business On... Mike Ashley, Founder, Sports Direct

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The Independent Online

Haven't I seen him at Newcastle United matches?

Yes, Mr Ashley is the owner of the football club but he made his name and is better known as the founder of Sports Direct, the UK's biggest sports retailer by revenue and profit.



Has he become embroiled in another regulatory problem?

No, in fact Mr Ashley's has been cleared of any wrongdoing in a series of investigations recently and his company has been doing rather well for three years now. Its shares have also been hotter over recent months than Alan Shearer in his prime.



What was the score with its pre-close update yesterday?

Top of the Toon, if you pardon the pun. Sports Direct reaffirmed that it expects to make profits of at least £205m for the year to 24 April.



So he gets rich while his poor shop staff earn a retail wage...

Not true. In fact, Sports Direct offers its employees one of the most lucrative incentive plans in the retail sector with a bonus share scheme.



Blimey

Indeed, Sports Direct is expected to pay 2,500 staff the equivalent of75 per cent of their salary in shares for hitting its profits targets this year, following a commitment to pay them 25 per cent last year. Yesterday, the retailer said it intends to extend the scheme over the next two years.



All smiles at Sports Direct, then?

It looks that way, particularly as its main rival, JJB, has been in the doldrums for nearly three years.



And Mike has mellowed?

We are not sure, as it's typically the quieter, more reserved Dave Forsey, the chief executive of Sports Direct, who speaks to the press these days.



Why is that?

Well, Mike has a tendency to shoot from the lip. At a press conference in 2008, he made a joke that his ex-wife was sponsoring Sports Direct's Goldigga brand. He also laughed off a suggestion that he had held talks with a group run by Osama bin Laden's half-brother about selling a minority stake in Newcastle United.

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