Odey Asset Management is Sports Direct’s second largest shareholder after Ashley and holds a 6.58 per cent stake in the business.
Speaking to City A.M., Odey said of Ashley: “He’s a genius. If only there were more entrepreneurs in the country then it would be a better game.” He added: “Ashley is playful and that annoys the City.”
Odey’s comments came after the sports retailer, which also owns Lilywhites stores and brands including Slazenger, said it remained committed to a “super-stretch bonus share scheme” after shareholders revolted over a similar plan in September.
Under the new scheme Ashley could net 10m shares, which would vest in 2018 if performance targets were met. Ashley is deputy executive chairman but draws no salary.
Shareholders had rejected the original proposal to award Ashley 8m shares because of the limited performance criteria and because the scheme was potentially open to other executives. Sports Direct said the revised bonus scheme addressed these concerns.
The news came as the firm said profits rose from £99m to £125m on revenues up 22 per cent to £1.1bn in the six months to 28 October.