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Mike Ashley says he has been "stabbed in the back" by Sports Direct shareholders

Ashley said Sports Direct shareholders had made it extremely challenging for future engagement to take place
Mike Ashley says he has been "stabbed in the back" by Sports Direct shareholders
Mike Ashley said Sports Direct suffered from "disproportionate scrutiny and misrepresentation" despite its success

Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct PLC (LON:SPD), on Friday said he had been "stabbed in the back" by shareholders and that the British sportswear retailer suffered from "disproportionate scrutiny and misrepresentation" despite its success.

In a statement, issued to the London Stock Exchange, Ashley, the majority owner of Sports Direct with a 61% stake in the firm, slammed its shareholders for failing to support the board.

READ: Mike Ashley's Sports Direct says it sees earnings growth ahead of potential investor revolt at AGM

"Despite this progress and the undoubted good performance of Sports Direct led by Keith Hellawell and myself, the company's shareholders appear to be affected by the pressure of the media and certain other organisations, and they have failed to support Sports Direct, Keith and myself, on this journey," Ashley said in the statement issued on Friday afternoon.

"In light of the above, and despite the substantial progress made over the last few years, the shareholders have now made it extremely challenging for future engagement to take place," he continued, adding that shareholders had "stabbed Sports Direct and myself in the back by repeatedly hounding Keith Hellawell."

At Wednesday's Annual General Meeting (AGM) Ashley's re-election was opposed by 9.78% of votes cast, while chairman Keith Hellawell stepped-down immediately prior to the meeting.

Ashley added that it was "blatantly apparent that true entrepreneurs will never be accepted in the public arena".

Sports Direct agreed to buy House of Fraser for £90mln in August after the department store chain went into administration following collapsed talks with creditors.

Ashley added that despite significant challenges within the retail sector in the UK and beyond, which have resulted in many retailers failing, Sports Direct had continued to perform well and exceed market expectations.

He said the acquisition of House of Fraser would be a "game changer" and that he welcomed its staff and suppliers into the Sports Direct family where he looks forward to building a brighter and significant future.

Shares in Sports Direct were 1% up at 352.8p in mid-afternoon trade.

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