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Mike Ashley Follows Shepherd and Hall’s NUFC Blueprint

10 years ago

Sir John Hall and Freddy Shepherd were the ones who took Newcastle United down the route of becoming a PLC.

This move helped them to make fortunes out of the club but it also created the odd problem.

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The AGMs back then were lively affairs, Newcastle United having more season ticket holders owning shares than at any other Premier League club. The AGM gave the ordinary shareholder the chance to go along and question those running the club. This led to some very uncomfortable hours spent in the company of shareholding fans, especially when the club was failing and both Shepherd and Hall were still taking fortunes out of the club in dividends and salaries.

The major shareholders then moved the AGMs to London to minimise the awkward questions and mass turnout of ordinary fans/shareholders.

On Wednesday, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct held their AGM and as well as very good figures to report and joining the FTSE 100, it was rumoured that there may be some awkward questions asked by shareholders as to business practices whereby over 90% of staff are employed on zero hour contracts that give no certainty of work and no sick or holiday pay.

The usual AGM for a FTSE 100 company would be hiring a  large venue that would be easily accessible (usually London) for hundreds of institutional and small investors, who may want to put the people running the company on the spot.

Instead, Sports Direct investors had to go to a venue above one of Ashley’s shops at the company’s headquarters on the edge of Shirebrook, which is a small town in Derbyshire.

The result of this was that Ashley and his top management hosted an AGM which according to the Guardian welcomed a total of exactly 8 shareholders and two journalists to this remote industrial park on a wet Wednesday.

The Guardian reported that time for questions from the floor was all but non-existent and once the formal business was gone through, Ashley was off like a shot.

Not surprisingly the few shareholders that had turned up were happy with the buoyant share price and financial share price, though sadly there was little concern shown for the vast majority of the workforce who are in such a weak position with the zero hour contracts.

The Chief Executive refused to comment on the extreme use of zero hour contracts and one charmer amongst the few small shareholders in attendance said that, “workers can get a job elsewhere if they don’t like it.”


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