Perhaps, in hindsight, looking a gift horse in the mouth is a bad idea. Shares in Sports Direct were down more than 3% in mid-morning trading today, even though the company posted a set of results most high street retailers can only dream about. What could possibly have spooked investors? Could it be the erratic behaviour of boss Mike Ashley?
Ashey's decision not to get involved in the company's next bonus scheme, even though its board had endured three votes and heavy criticism from shareholders to get him a bonus in the first place, clearly has investors riled. Commentators have suggested Ashley's decision was philanthropic - ie. if he's not part of the scheme, Sports Direct staff will get a bigger slice of the 25 million-share pie on offer - but it may be that shareholders just see it as perverse. Whatever Ashley's motivations, it certainly suggests an element of muscle-flexing.
Still: for those hanging on to their shares, it was good news. Group revenue rose 23.8% to £2.7bn, driven in part by the retailer's premium lifestyle division, whose revenues rose a whopping 49.4% to £214m after its acquisition of Jack Wills wannabe Republic. Naturally, though, its sports brands - including Sports Direct and JD Sports - accounted for the lion's share of income, with revenues rising 24.1% to £2.27bn. Reported profit before tax rose 15.6% to £239.5m.
So why are shares dropping faster than England's hopes of a World Cup win? Presumably, after yesterday's about-turn, shareholders are worried about the future of the company.
Investors have already voiced their concerns about a 'weak board': this episode makes it look like Ashley is running rings around them. The company has long been criticised for giving him the governance-busting title of 'executive deputy chairman'. Now he's proved he can have his cake and throw it back in the board's face, is it time for him to take the step back? Or would that be out of the frying pan and into the fire?