Tuesday 2 July 2019 1:21 pm

Bye bye Byers: Top Sports Direct executive leaves Mike Ashley's firm

A veteran executive at Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct is leaving the high street retailer after working at the firm for nearly three decades.

One of the retail tycoon’s closest confidantes at the business, Karen Byers, is stepping down as a senior director with immediate effect.

Read more: Sports Direct hits back at Goals Soccer Centres after heated AGM

According to Press Association, which first reported the story, her departure was revealed to staff members in a conference call yesterday morning.

“Karen Byers runs Sports Direct,” Ashley once told the Times, adding: “She runs the retail, all the money comes out the retail, [the warehouse workers and store managers] are her army. She is the person who sets the rules. Not me.”

In a statement today, Ashley said:  “Karen has been a very supportive member of the team for over 28 years and we wish her well for the future. The focus of the business as we move forward remains our programme of brand elevation, one that we are totally committed to.”

He added: “The door will always be open to Karen if she wishes to come back to the business as a consultant.”

Shares in Sports Direct edged down just over one per cent in early afternoon trading.

Read more: Sports Direct launches legal challenge to Debenhams restructuring plan

The exit is likely to be an untimely blow for Ashley as he fights multiple corporate battles.

In recent days the billionaire and Newcastle United owner has been ramping up a war of words with Goals Soccer Centres, of which he is the largest shareholder, over a major accountancy error discovered in March.

Last month the retail mogul also fired off a legal challenge to overturn a turnaround plan at department store chain Debenhams, which led to his stake in the business being wiped out.