‘A while ago Labour leader Ed Miliband spoke of the difference between “good” business people and “bad” ones.
It is slightly surprising to report that Mike Ashley looks like he is firmly in the former camp. The retail tycoon floated his Sports Direct empire in 2007, cashing in towards £1 bn himself. He used the money to buy Newcastle United, among other things.
For quite a while after the float Ashley was loathed in the City as his shares crashed. His total disregard for corporate governance procedures and other City protocol had some questioning his integrity. He’s a wrong ‘un, went the whisper. Ashley’s response was memorable. The complainers, he said, were just a bunch of cry babies. A reasonable point.
On Thursday Sports Direct will unveil half-year results that are likely to be strong. And next year’s Olympics are just bound to be a boon to him. More than that, he treats staff well. They all get a bonus based on profits, which makes Sports Direct the John Lewis of the stock market.’
Quite clearly Mike Ashley has found a winning formula in business but whether he can ever be successful in the football ‘business’, or has any long-term intention of even trying, may well be largely answered in January.
Certainly a weakening of the squad in January by selling one of the top assets would send out the message he is simply trying to claw back as much money as possible before a sale.
Alternatively, sensible investment in at least a first team striker and defender might still leave the door open for him to still prove to be a ‘good’ football club owner. You have to acknowledge though that for many that door is all but shut, bolted and with half a dozen locks!