Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley could face a shareholder uprising at the retail giant’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday.
Influential shareholder advisory groups ISS and Glass Lewis have both urged investors to vote against Mike Ashley’s re-appointment as chief executive and have also come out against chairman Keith Hellawell.
Ashley, who is currently struggling to turn around House of Fraser after acquiring it for £90m last month, was blasted by Glass Lewis for overseeing years of “poor governance” at the retailer.
ISS slammed Ashley for "continued failures" as boss of Sports Direct and said plans to hand Ashley’s future son-in-law Michael Murray £5m for his role as head of elevation “exacerbated” its concerns.
ISS said that Ashley had showed an “apparent unwillingness” to listen to the concerns of independent shareholders.
Former policeman Hellawell has only narrowly survived as chair in the face of previous revolts thanks to backing from 61 per cent shareholder Ashley.
In 2016 more than half of independent shareholders voted against him, triggering a second vote in January 2017 where 54 per cent of independent shareholders voted against him.
Last year Hellawell again squeaked through with the support of 53 per cent of independent shareholders.
In its report ISS said: “These votes of no-confidence from independent shareholders suggest that Keith Hellawell’s continuation in the position of chair is not tenable.”
A Sports Direct spokesperson said: “We hope that shareholders will continue to recognise the further positive progress that we have made over the last 12 months.”
Separately, the Times reported that Ashley has called for an Insolvency Service inquiry into House of Fraser’s former directors who he accused of “totally” misleading its suppliers and warehouse operator.
The department store chain collapsed with debts of £884m last month, including £30.4m which it owed to XPO which ran two of its warehouses.
Ashley has been in talks with Xpo over the debt which has stymied attempts to gets its online shopping business running again.