Poor working practices, including the use of zero-hours contracts, have also been attacked by politicians and unions, leading to Sports Direct announcing a 15p an hour pay rise.
And as the dust settles on Ashley’s fascinating appearance, we take a look at who is right-hand man is.Mr Bishop has been a regular ally of Mike Ashley since the sportswear magnate took over at Newcastle United and is a self-proclaimed “PR and crisis management specialist”.He set up and founded Keith Bishop Associates, one of London’s most well-known PR agencies.He is also one of the few people to gain access to Ashley’s trusted inner circle of associates – and lists United and Rangers among his most high-profile clients.Sports Direct today attempted to draw a line under founder Mike Ashley’s decision to appoint his daughter’s boyfriend to lead its £250 million property spending spree.The company insisted that Michael Murray, who is in a relationship with Ashley’s eldest daughter, Anna, was only working for Sports Direct in a consultancy role “primarily tasked with finding new sites for both our larger format stores and our combined retail and gym units”.
He is not paid a salary and is not listed as a director of any Sports Direct companies, according to Companies House, although he is a director of a handful of private businesses owned by Ashley through his Mash web of companies.
Murray is also a director of Strawberry Place Newcastle Limited, which is a property business associated with Newcastle United FC, which Ashley owns.
The 26-year-old appears to have no other expertise in property outside of his jobs for Ashley and Sports Direct, and he is still listed as a shareholder in a party promotion business, TM Bars Limited, which he set up at Reading University.
Sports Direct said: “Michael has a consultancy arrangement with the company…
His remuneration is based solely on creating value, with the company’s non-executive directors overseeing an independent review annually and deciding, in their absolute discretion, how much of any increased value (up to a maximum of 25%) shall be paid to Michael.” Sports Direct shares are sitting at two-and-a-half-year lows following results that showed the retail chain is losing out to rivals including JD Sports, while an expansion into Austria has hit profits.
Analysts have also criticised Ashley’s use of the company for making investments in other businesses including Debenhams, Tesco, Direct Golf and Findel.