Mike Ashley becomes CEO of Sports Direct after Dave Forsey resigns

Mike Ashley

The management change comes after months of mounting pressure on the company, which has been criticised by investors, MPs and unions for the workplace practices at its Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire and its poor corporate governance, reports The Telegraph.

As founder and majority shareholder, Mike Ashley has long been regarded as the figurehead and de facto boss of the sportswear chain. His elevation to the top job comes after the company released a damning report from its own solicitors, RPC, which found “serious shortcomings” at Shirebrook. Sports Direct has pledged an independent review into its business and corporate governance.

The same report criticised Mr Forsey for failing to inform the Sports Direct board about some of the issues at Shirebrook “in a timely or effective manner”, saying that despite “warning signs”  some points were “not escalated”.

Mr Forsey has agreed to “facilitate a smooth handover of his responsibilities”, the company said this morning.

In a statement, Mr Forsey said: “I have given my entire working life to the company and in return the company has given me amazing opportunities and experiences.  I wish everyone at Sports Direct well in the future.”

Keith Hellawell, the chairman of Sports Direct, whose reappointment was opposed by a majority of independent shareholders at the company’s AGM earlier this month, only for him to be saved by Mr Ashley, said: “I would like to thank Dave for his significant contribution over the last 32 years and during a period of significant growth and change at the company.  On behalf of all the people at Sports Direct I wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Mike Ashley said: “I feel like I have lost my right arm, but I do hope to have the opportunity to work with Dave again in the future.”

Mr Ashley attracted further criticism earlier this week when in a BBC interview he defended using a helicopter to fly to work and blamed workplace problems at Shirebrook on a few “rotten apples”.

In the same interview Mr Ashley denied having much knowledge of the problems at Shirebrook, saying: “You’d be surprised how little I knew of what was going on.” Before a committee of MPs earlier this year, he admitted that the company may have grown too large for him to have full oversight – a problem that he may be seeking to rectify by taking up the chief executive post.

Sports Direct also announced that  Karen Byers has been promoted to the role of global head of operations, and Sean Nevitt has been promoted to the role of global head of commercial.