Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley chases £40m bonus

Sports Direct is attempting to reintroduce a controversial bonus scheme that would see Ashley pocket a cool £40m. This, despite shareholders voting down a similar proposal just three months ago.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

MT has managed to get its hot little hands on Mike Ashley's Christmas list this year. It reads: Newcastle United boxer shorts, a new squash racket, the latest Howard Hughes biography, oh, and a £40m bonus, please.

Sports Direct has altered its original bonus proposal, the one voted down back in September, adding a few extra goals and objectives - more hoops to jump through - in order for Ashley to receive his cash. If the Sports Direct founder (and 70% shareholder) keeps his end up for the next three years, the cash will land in 2018.

The pressure is now on CEO Dave Forsey to persuade shareholders to play ball. 'The board remains committed to implementing a scheme to recognise the ongoing substantial and essential contribution of Mike Ashley,' he says in a statement today. In other words, Ashley means to get his moolah.

And who's to say he doesn't deserve the cash? While rival JD Sports has languished on the high street, Sports Direct has reported a 22.5% year-on-year increase in revenues to £1.1bn in the six months to October 28. Pre-tax profits have hit £125m, up from £100m to £125m, and diluted earnings per share rose from 11.17p to 14.73p.

The firm has really capitalised on the internet shopping boom and e-commerce now accounts for 12.5% of total retail sales, up from less than 10% a year ago. MT reckons it's because you get a free, over-sized Sports Direct mug with every order. Who could resist a deal that good?

International expansion also continues apace, with new stores opening in Hungary, Slovakia, Iceland and the Czech Republic during the last six months.

It's no wonder, therefore, that many of the company's shareholders think that Ashley deserves the pay-out. The vote back in February may have failed to draw the necessary 75% yeses, but it did reach a respectable 60%. Pirc and the Association of British Insurers were Ashley's staunchest opposition. Can the combined forces of Ashley and Forsey convince the naysayers this time round? MT predicts a bunfight in the boardroom if they can't...

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