Five things we now know about Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley has been giving evidence to the Business Select Committee about working practices at Sports Direct.
Mike AshleyMike Ashley
Mike Ashley

Here are five things the MPs learned about the Newcastle United supremo.

:: He is not Santa.

Despite admitting that some of his workers had been paid less than the minimum wage, Mr Ashley defended his nature. He told the committee he was "kind to genuine people".

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But before anyone got too carried away, he was quick to add "I am not Santa". Just in case there was any danger of a comparison.

:: He can do a better job at sorting out Sports Direct than the unions.

Mr Ashley may not be as upstanding as Father Christmas, but he is convinced he can do a better job at improving working conditions at Sports Direct than the Unite union. Asked whether his workers would agree with that view, he said: "I would hope so."

:: Don't ask him about his tie.

After months of "will he, won't he", the first face-to-face meeting between Mr Ashley and the Business, Innovations and Skills Committee was always going to be a frosty affair.

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Mr Ashley could not hide his contempt when committee chairman Iain Wright tried to break the ice by striking a more convivial tone.

As the retail tycoon took his seat in front of the panel of MPs, Mr Wright asked whether he was wearing a black and white Newcastle United tie. Mr Ashley pointedly ignored him.

:: Sports Direct is too big for him to manage alone.

Mr Ashley said he could not be everywhere at once to address all the problems at Sports Direct. When asked whether the firm had outgrown his ability to manage it on his own, he replied: "Probably a long time ago."

:: He could have been BHS's night in shining armour.

Rumours were rife that Mr Ashley was interested in buying BHS before the retailer collapsed last week.

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An attempt by MPs to shed light on the speculation was initially batted away when Mr Ashley's public relations adviser Keith Bishop told him to answer "no comment".

But Mr Ashley could not help himself. He said: "One hundred per cent I wanted to buy BHS. It's a logical fit with Sports Direct because of the extreme value that Sports Direct is known for."

He added: "I'm not a saint, but you could have made a success of that business."