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Mike Ashley to step down as boss of Sports Direct parent company Frasers Group

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Mike Ashley (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
Mike Ashley (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

Mike Ashley is to step down as the boss of Sports Direct owner Frasers Group and hand the top job to his future son-in-law.

Frasers confirmed that Mr Ashley would be replaced as chief executive by 31-year-old Michael Murray, who is engaged to the retail tycoon’s daughter, Anna.

Frasers, which owns the House of Fraser department store chain and clothing retailer Flannels, said Mr Ashley will remain on the board as an executive director when Mr Murray becomes chief executive on 1 May 2022.

The company told the stock market on Thursday that a pay and bonus deal was being drawn up for the proposed new chief executive.

Mr Ashley's replacement is currently “head of elevation” at Frasers and has been tasked with modernising the business and updating its image.

“The group's elevation strategy is transforming the business and receiving positive feedback from consumers and our brand partners, especially on projects such as the new Oxford Street Sports Direct which opened in June 2021,” the firm added.

“The board consider it appropriate that Michael leads us forward on this increasingly successful elevation journey.”

Mr Ashley founded Sports Direct in Maidenhead, Berkshire, in 1982 and has now grown his retail empire to be worth around £3bn and cover almost 1,000 stores.

In recent years he has swooped for a series of struggling brands including House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Jack Wills. He also failed in a controversial attempt to buy up Debenhams, which was eventually liquidated and sold as an online-only brand to Boohoo.

Frasers shares fell more than 3 per cent on Thursday as it reported plunging profits. Sales were hit by the closure of stores during the pandemic.

Pre-tax profits dived by 94.1 per cent to £8.5m for the year to 25 April, compared with £143.5 million in the previous year.

Mr Ashley said: “The group is continuing to invest in its physical and digital elevation strategy and our omnichannel offering is growing in strength.

“Our stores in the UK have reopened above expectations and our online channel continues to significantly outperform pre-Covid-19 periods.

“Nonetheless, management remains of the view that there is a high risk of future Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, likely to be over this winter and maybe beyond.”

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