Graphic allegations of drunken shenanigans at Sports Direct meetings have failed to raise many eyebrows this week: the accusations came after 18 months of bizarre events at the company.
During a hearing over a dispute with ex-Merrill Lynch investment banker Jeremy Blue, who alleges Ashley owes him £15m, it was suggested the Sports Direct boss had held "pub lock-in" style management meetings. During one, he allegedly challenged an analyst to a drinking competition before "vomiting in a fireplace".
But it's not the first time Sports Direct has been mired in controversy. Here are some of the strangest moments:
- The time Four Holdings, a company in which Ashley owns a 25 per cent stake, bought lingerie retailer Agent Provocateur, against its founder's wishes.
- The two times Ashley used his controlling stake in Sports Direct to save less-than-popular chairman Keith Hellawell, despite the fact he has presided over several profit warnings at the company.
- The time Sports Direct said it had paid $51.1m for a new corporate jet, at the same time as it admitted its profits had fallen by half
- The time Sports Direct was accused of hiding a camera in a tray of sandwiches in order to "spy" on a group of MPs (although Ashley and the board denied all knowledge of it).
- The time an appearance by Ashley on BBC Breakfast ended in him insisting he commutes to work by helicopter because it's more efficient.
- The time Ashley tried to improve Sports Direct's image by inviting the press to look around its Shirebrook warehouse but the story quickly became about the Vegas-sized wad of £50 notes he pulled out of his pocket at the security gate.
- The time, at the same event, Hellawell (a former chief constable), assured City A.M. he can stand up to board scrutiny in a way that made everyone a bit uncomfortable. “My past is dealing with child murderers and serial killers, do you think I’m going to have a problem saying no in a board meeting?”
- The time Ashley lost it at the assistant general secretary of the Unite union, saying: "It's your fault we're in this mess. All the good work is getting undone".
- The time Ashley not-so-politely declined an invitation by a committee of MPs to give evidence as part of their investigation into pay and conditions at Sports Direct, accusing the MPs of "showboating", and prompting them to warn he could be held in contempt.
- The time Ashley finally did appear before MPs, and made the confusing observation: “I can’t be responsible for everything that goes on at Sports Direct... I’m not Father Christmas". (Meanwhile, in court today he went for a different figure, claiming "I am not Obi-Wan Kenobi in charge of the Death Star", which left Star Wars fans scratching their heads).
- The time, in the resulting report from MPs, it emerged taking time off working at Sports Direct's Shirebrook warehouse was so frowned upon, a woman gave birth in the toilets.
- The time the same report into practices at Shirebrook showed workers without bank accounts were forced to pay to receive their wages, while under a "six strikes and you're out" system, strikes were doled out if workers took time off for being ill or even spent too long in the bathroom.
- The time Sports Direct shares fell nine per cent after Ashley gave a candid interview, saying the company is "in trouble" and "not trading very well".