Newcastle owner sells £200m of shares

MIKE ASHLEY ... shareholders failed to back a �70m bonus for him.

MIKE ASHLEY ... shareholders failed to back a �70m bonus for him.

NEWCASTLE United owner Mike Ashley has sold £200m worth of shares in his Sports Direct retail empire.

The move came days after shareholders threw out an executive bonus scheme that would have awarded Mr Ashley £72m in shares.

Its share price fell by 9%, or 83.8p, to 809.8p.

Last week, Ashley surprised the City by acquirijng 11% of the shares in House of Fraser, in a last-minute deal.

It is understood that the stake was purchased by Sports Direct rather than from Ashley’s personal fortune and carries no voting rights.

The new announcement, that Ashley has sold around 7% of his Sports Direct holding, means he still holds a majority 55% stake in the company he founded.

Last week Sports Direct was forced, for a second time, to abandon a bonus scheme that would have granted Ashley 8 million shares after investors argued its targets were not taxing enough.

Shareholders also baulked at a similar plan in 2012.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb questioned whether it was Ashley’s “way of telling the City that he needs the money”.

In the months following the 2012 scheme’s rejection Ashley, who owns Newcastle United, sold two tranches of shares worth just over £200m.

Bubb suggested the City would welcome the share sale.

The board is preparing to put forward a third proposal for a bonus for Ashley at its shareholders meeting in September, and analysts are questioning how this squared with the entrepreneur’s decision to reduce his stake.

Ashley, whose career in retail began when his parents lent him £10,000 to open his own shop, remains the driving force behind the retailer.

After a string of international deals, the retailer has more than 600 sports stores across Europe, including 400 in the UK, where it is the market leader.


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