Sports Direct's share price flops after founder Mike Ashley admits the company is “in trouble” and blames MPs for a storm of negative publicity

Billy Bambrough
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Swansea City v Newcastle United - Premier League
Mike Ashley's football club Newcastle United is performing as well as his company, currently languishing around the bottom of the Premier League (Source: Getty)

The share price of controversial sportswear retailer Sports Direct has tumbled after billionaire boss Mike Ashley admitted in a rare interview the company is "in trouble", and "not trading very well".

Speaking to The Times, Ashley blamed MPs for creating a storm of negativity around the retailer, and accused them of “abuse of parliamentary process” by requesting he attend a hearing over Sports Direct's treatment of its employees.

The company's share price has today lost almost nine per cent, down over 50 per cent on six months ago. The retailer, founded by Ashley in 1982, was booted out of the FTSE 100 earlier this year due to the falling share price.

22 March 2016 @ 12:30pmSports Direct Intl (SPD)

MPs on the business select committee asked Ashley to attend a hearing after an investigation by the Guardian newspaper last year uncovered "gulag" type conditions for workers.

Ashley has been told that he could be held in contempt of parliament if he fails to attend a hearing on 7 June. He yesterday branded MPs on the committee "idiots".

"It is telling that he chose to give his response to the media rather than to the committee directly," said Iain Wright MP, chair of the Business, Skills and Innovation Committee.

Ashley told Sky News he felt MPs were "showboating".

Ashley invited the committee to come to the Sports Direct premises in Shirebrook earlier this month to see the conditions for themselves, but the invitation was rejected due to concerns over transparency.

According to Ashley the negative media attention on the business can be traced back to former Labour leader Ed Miliband after he accused Sports Direct of Victorian working practices during election campaigning last year.

Sports Direct has posted lower-than-expected half-year profits recently and in January issued a profit warning, stating that poor sales meant that its full-year profits could fall as low as £380m.

“We are supposed to be taking the profits up, they are not supposed to be coming down, and the more the media frenzy feeds on it, the more it affects us,” Ashley told the newspaper.

Ashley's official job title at the company is deputy chairman in order to avoid speaking to shareholders. He remains the majority shareholder.

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