After Mike Ashley said that he was too busy throughout the whole of March to appear, MPs had to make do with Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell today.
He faced a grilling for two hours by MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee, including Chairman Ian Davidson, over the company’s administration of USC.
Bizarrely, Business news website City AM reported that Hellawell insisted that there’d never been a problem in terms of Mike Ashley’s willingness to appear and that he would be prepared to meet MPs at another time.
Chairman Ian Davidson was incredulous, pointing out that MPs had to resort to contacting Sports Direct’s PR because they couldn’t get any response from the Sports Direct majority shareholder.
When (if?) Ashley does appear, he can expect to be given a hard time by MPs who were often angry and frustrated with Keith Hellawell’s responses.
USC’s administration resulted in around 200 redundancies at a warehouse in Ayrshire, before being bought out by sister company Republic.
Ian Davidson claimed that the management had no need to shut the warehouse and said that they’d; “callously and deliberately developed a situation where employees got 15 minutes’ notice.”
The Sports Direct Chairman though said it was a last minute decision and prompted by the landlord of the warehouse refusing access over unpaid rent. Hellawell; “I wouldn’t call it callous, it was a business decision.”
When asked about relationships with suppliers, Keith Hellawell admitted that Sports Direct withholds payment to suppliers and landlords to try and agree better prices. The SD Chairman saying that he would now be going back to ask ‘searching questions’ of management about this tactic.
For Newcastle fans, the club owner’s way of dealing with employees should come as no surprise, judging by Jonas Gutierrez’ comments reported arlier today with regard to how he was treated when suffering from testicular cancer.