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Sports Direct's property aide jumps ship months after Mike Ashley appoints his daughter's boyfriend to run property portfolio

Helen Cahill
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There will be an independent review of working practices at Sports Direct (Source: Getty)

Sports Direct's top property lawyer has jumped ship after Mike Ashley hired his daughter's boyfriend to run the retailer's property portfolio.

Allawee Albaghdadi had been at Sports Direct nearly five years, but, according to his LinkedIn profile, left the embattled company in July for commercial law firm EMW.

Read more: Sports Direct chairman: I have dealt with killers, I can survive board heat

In January, Ashley appointed 27-year-old Michael Murray, his daughter's boyfriend, to consult on Sports Direct's property deals. Murray will be in line for 25 per cent of the value of the deals.

Sports Direct will be active in changing its property portfolio over the coming months. Speaking at the company's annual general meeting (AGM) earlier this month, Ashley said Sports Direct will be moving into bigger stores.

The plan is to acquire large buildings with different floors dedicated to Ashley's various sportswear brands. Third-party brands such as Adidas may not be willing to take space in a budget retail store such as Sports Direct, he said, but could be placed in a USC store - a brand also owned by Ashley - under the same roof.

Read more: A guide to who's who at Sports Direct after that management shake-up

The news of Albaghdadi's departure comes shortly after Sports Direct announced that its CEO Dave Forsey resigned - to be replaced by majority-shareholder Ashley.

On Forsey's resignation, Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said:

We don’t think this is likely to mean major changes in strategy, but certainly welcome the simplification of what in recent years has been a bewildering management structure.

Peel Hunt analyst Jonathan Pritchard said: "We are sorry to see Mr Forsey go: he tried very hard to build bridges with the City and will be missed.

"Clearly the issues surrounding accountability and working practices have caused an internal shakeout and the calls for Mike Ashley to have a more executive role have been answered."

Read more: Sports Direct shares jump as Mike Ashley takes control

Ashley has caved in to pressure from investors, who have been demanding the company conduct a fully independent review of working practices and corporate governance; Sports Direct had initially insisted on allowing its own lawyers to conduct the review.

However, calls for Sports Direct's chairman Keith Hellawell to resign have been ignored. At its AGM, the company announced Hellawell would be staying on, despite independent investors voting for him to be ejected from the board.

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