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Drapers Top 100 2017 – 17. Mike Ashley, founder and chief executive, Sports Direct

Mike Ashley, Sports Direct

Mike Ashley, Sports Direct

You might have expected 2017 to be a quieter year for Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, after the circus of last year’s public enquiry into working practices at the retailer came to a close. However, Ashley has continued to hit headlines this year, not least for his decision to sell football club Newcastle United and, more recently, thanks to rumours that he is in talks to acquire Brixton Market in London.

Meanwhile, at Sports Direct, underlying profit before tax plummeted by 59% to £113.7m in the 53 weeks to 30 April 2017, as a result of weaker sterling. Group sales, however, climbed 11.7% to £3.2bn.

Sales in the premium lifestyle division, which includes Flannels, grew 11.6%% to £202.2m, and Ashley is forging ahead with expansion plans for the premium fashion retailer – including new stores in Middlesbrough, Shirebrook and Altrincham. Flannels is also planning to open a London flagship on 161-167 Oxford Street early next year.

His reputation may have taken a bit of a battering last year, but with a rumoured new value clothing venture called BrandsMax, on the horizon, Ashley continues to wield influence over the industry.

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