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Ashley demands position on Debenhams board

Sports Direct has called for a general meeting of Debenhams to appoint Mike Ashley to the board of directors.

The retailer has called for all current members of the Debenhams board, other than Rachel Osborne who became a director in September 2018, to be removed.

Sports Direct said Ashley would step down from his current roles as a director and chief executive of Sports Direct if he was appointed to the Debenhams board. He would be replaced by Chris Wootton, currently Sports Direct’s deputy chief financial officer, who would take up the role of acting chief executive.

It added that Ashley would carry out an executive role during this “critical time” for Debenhams, by building a strong board and management team.

He currently owns a 29.7% stake in Debenhams through Sports Direct. 

Sports Direct added: “Sports Direct wishes to reassure its shareholders that, if Mr Ashley were to be appointed to the board of Debenhams and step down from his roles at Sports Direct, Sports Direct and Mr Ashley have every confidence that acting chief executive Mr Wootton and the other members of Sports Direct’s board and management team have the necessary expertise to continue to successfully run the Sports Direct business.”

It added that more details relating to Sports Direct’s reasons for the requisitioning of a meeting of Debenhams and the proposed appointment of Ashley will follow in due course.

In a statement, Debenhams said: Debenhams has this evening received notice from Sports Direct International plc proposing changes to the board. The board has been engaging with Sports Direct and our other stakeholders and is disappointed that Sports Direct has taken this action. In the meantime, we remain focused on delivering the restructuring of our balance sheet, and our discussions are well advanced.”

Readers' comments (7)

  • This is the right thing for Debenhams. Ashley is their only saviour.

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  • Agree completely, it maybe unpalatable for some BUT he’s got his own cash invested in the business, not someone else’s with a load of share options. This may just work.... prepare for a rollercoaster ride however!

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  • Eric Musgrave

    I can't wait to see two Harrods on some high streets! Or maybe Debs will be Ashley's "Harvey Nichols of the High Street". I feel sorry for the staff in all this.

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  • Ashley will be saving jobs if he turns Debenhams fortunes around. Be hopeful for the staff with this news, not sorry Eric.

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  • Because he is doing such a good job with House of Fraser - anyone been in recently ! It looks like a jumble sale with acres of space in-between racks of carryover stock.

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  • I had the misfortune of working at HoF when Ashley took over and all I can say it wasn't good for the staff at all

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  • Ashley may rue the day he got involved in Debenhams and HOF. The former cannot be saved in its current form and HOF has done nothing to give anyone confidence since Ashley took hold. It's just a void on current evidence.

    The only way both businesses can survive is merge, downsize and rebrand. Even then, it won't be easy.

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