In an astonishing U-Turn (although his media guru Keith Bishop denies it is…) only 48 hours before the 7 June date, Mike Ashley has agreed to go before MPs and answer questions about the running of his Sports Direct empire, in particular how he treats his staff.
For months Mike Ashley has refused to appear and even last week claimed at the 11th hour he couldn’t attend because his favoured legal representative was suddenly busy.
So the Newcastle United owner will now appear before the business, innovation and skills select committee on Tuesday simply ‘to avoid a media circus’ and to ‘defend the company’s good name’ (could be a long meeting!!).
On the suggestion he had ‘something to hide’, Mike Ashley has written: ‘I can assure you that nothing is further from the truth’.
Mike Ashley had previously said that he would attend on Tuesday but only if MPs first visited his headquarters at Shirebrook.
My betting would have been that if MPs hadn’t refused that offer, he would then have claimed after a visit to his headquarters that there was then no need to go to Parliament because he’d already answered any questions they’d had when seeing him on that private visit.
This I think gets to the heart of what Mike Ashley is all about. He has never been a recluse and has been quite happy to appear in public and in the media but only on his terms. When it is TV appearances which he has arranged with Sky and he controls the content, he has shown he is willing to do them.
Even at the Sports Direct AGM he escapes as quickly as possibly and tries as hard as possible not to have to answer on the spot questions himself.
No way does he want to appear before the MPs and have them dictating what the questions will be and then the questions and his answers to them made public.
Keith Bishop was of course talking nonsense when saying this was no U-turn, Mike Ashley has been dragged kicking and screaming before these MPs and is going to hate every minute of it and the aftermath.
The fact he has felt he has had no option but to do so, just shows what a corner he has been painted into.
“After much reflection over the last 48 hours, I have concluded that a lengthy legal battle would be of no benefit to either of us.
“It would no doubt lead to further unwarranted accusations that I am being secretive, whereas in fact I have been open and honest at every stage of this process.”