Mike Ashley to rename Sports Direct in upmarket push

Sports Direct International is to rename itself Frasers Group as part of Mike Ashley’s attempt to push his retail empire upmarket.

The FTSE 250 company said yesterday that it had called a general meeting for December 16 to ask its shareholders to approve the name change, which comes before a plan to roll out a chain of luxury Frasers stores. The branding of the group’s Sports Direct shops will not be affected.

The revamp marks the latest stage of Mr Ashley’s strategy to expand the company beyond its roots as a sportswear retailer and to overhaul its image.

The tycoon, 55, started the business as a single shop in Maidenhead in 1982 called Mike Ashley Sports. He has since expanded it via a series of acquisitions, including a £90 million deal in August last year to buy the House of Fraser department stores chain out of administration, and has become a billionaire in the process.

The group employs about 29,400 staff, has a £1.8 billion market value and its businesses include Flannels, the luxury fashion retailer, Evans Cycles, Sofa.com, Jack Wills and Game Digital. However, Sports Direct has attracted criticism in the past for conditions at its Shirebrook warehouse and for its corporate governance.