Denial and disgrace: Here's everything that's happened at Sports Direct over the past year

Helen Cahill
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Sports Direct Founder Faces Commons Select Committee Over Working Conditions
Mike Ashley has not been able to escape the spotlight (Source: Getty)

Mike Ashley has always controlled Sports Direct, but today he finally took the top job at the company he founded.

It's been a rollercoaster year for Ashley. If you're wondering how we got to this point, here's everything that's happened so far:

Politicians launch an investigation into working practices at Sports Direct

The move comes after reports in the Guardian allege staff were working for less than the minimum wage.

Sports Direct initially deny the allegations about working practices, saying the reports were "an unfair portrayal" of what was going on in its Shirebrook warehouse. Ashley agrees, however, to conduct his own internal review of the situation.

MPs demand Ashley turns up in Parliament to give evidence

It proves difficult for MPs to pin down Ashley - he invites them to see his warehouse, but dithers over giving evidence in Parliament. MPs eventually command him to come to a hearing on 7 June.

Ashley admits he can't control Sports Direct

In an extraordinary evidence session in front of the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee, Ashley tells MPs "I'm not father Christmas" and admits he could not control the company. It had become too big for him to really know what was going on, he says. He puts on a full charm offensive, and the MPs end up thanking him for his honesty.

For the first time, Ashley admits he paid his workers less than the minimum wage, and that he is under investigation by HMRC.

MPs slam Ashley for "appalling" practices at Sports Direct

The charm offensive fails, however. Weeks later, MPs release a damning report on Sports Direct, listing all of the dire working practices its employees have to suffer.

Read more: Four of the most jaw-dropping working practices at Sports Direct

The report is brutal - there are revelations of hundreds of ambulance trips, sexual harassment, and people having to work without being paid.

Sports Direct is forced to pay back workers £1m

HMRC concludes its investigation into Sports Direct, and the company is forced to pay back all of the workers who earned less than the minimum wage. Unite claims it is a "significant victory" for the trade union.

Investor groups push for a revolt at Sports Direct's AGM

Several large investor groups start to call for a vote against Sports Direct's chairman Keith Hellawell at the retailer's AGM. Many have concerns about the slump in Sports Direct's share price, and they also want the company to conduct an independent review of working practices and corporate governance.

Sports Direct respond by publishing an internal review one day before the AGM, but several groups say the review changes nothing.

Fireworks fly at Sports Direct's AGM

Before the AGM even gets going, Sports Direct says it will be keeping chairman Keith Hellawell, regardless of the views of the independent shareholders.

Ashley pulls out a wad of £50 and faces criticism for flaunting his wealth at a time when he is under scrutiny for paying less than the minimum wage.

The company also refuses to commit to the independent review of working practices and corporate governance that investors are so eager for.

Sports Direct caves in to its investors and announces independent review

Finally, the investors get what they want. Ashley goes on the BBC to discuss the news, but digs himself into a hole by talking about his enormous wealth again, saying that he travels to work by helicopter.

Mike Ashley becomes chief executive of Sports Direct

Sports Direct decides it's time to clarify its governance structure, and appoints Ashley as CEO.

Many comment that it hasn't made a difference - the fortunes of Sports Direct were always tied to Ashley anyway - and Hellawell is still the company's chairman.

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