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North East Journalists Corner Mike Ashley At Sports Direct AGM

6 years ago
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Mike Ashley has at last been questioned in public as to the relationship between Newcastle United and Sports Direct, the NUFC owner giving answers (kind of) in return.

At last year’s Sports Direct AGM, Mirror reporter Simon Bird who covers north east football, went along as a journalist but was prevented from probing the Newcastle owner as he wasn’t a shareholder.

On Wednesday, Sports Direct’s latest AGM took place, and Simon Bird returned along with friend and fellow NUFC covering journalist, George Caulkin of The Times…as shareholders.

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Both journalists have reported back and this is part of Simon Bird’s interesting transcript of the ‘conversation’ between the journalists/shareholders and Mike Ashley, needless to say Ashley and his Sports Direct minions weren’t expecting anything but the usual quick presentation and the Newcastle owner instantly jumping into his helicopter;

“I would like to address a question to Mr Ashley, please. I wonder if he could explain the benefits to Sports Direct in its relationship with Newcastle United and Rangers.”

(Pause of 27 seconds)

 “Other than to say than it has been beneficial to Sports Direct and therefore its shareholders, I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment.”

“Newcastle have said publicly, for example, that Sports Direct don’t pay for any stadium advertising or perimeter advertising at St James’ Park,  and there is obviously a lot of it, I wonder what the benefit is to you and whether you could give a rough estimate of what it is worth in financial terms please.”

“I think I summed it all up in my previous statement. Those relationships are very beneficial to Sports Direct and its shareholders and I think that nothing else needs to be said.”

“With due respect, can I then reverse the question? What is the benefit to the relationship they have with Sports Direct for Newcastle United, in which you are the owner, and Rangers, in which you have a shareholding? What is the benefit to those institutions?”

Keith Hellawell (Sports Direct Chairman) intervenes:

“This is really… That isn’t for the Annual General Meeting of this company. The first question was, in relation to what benefit the company gain from that. I think in relation to what Manchester United, sorry Newcastle United, and Rangers gain, you’d have to ask them. There’s no one from the board of those companies here. It’s not to do with this company.”

“Well, there is one member on the board (Ashley).”

Another director: “Yes, but this is a Sports Direct annual general meeting.”

“I know. I’m aware of that. I was just correcting that error. Can I direct a question to Mr Ashley? Sports Direct now process and profit from the shirt sales and merchandising through Newcastle United, the website and the club shop. Can you explain how much this trade is worth? Is it a significant part of the business to Sports Direct and do you, Newcastle, share in that profit?”

“I’ll only answer the same answer as I gave before.”

Hellawell:

“We are really straying beyond the AGM. We’re trying to be helpful.”

“I would just say the questions are relevant to resolution one in the company accounts and how the company accounts are being boosted by Sports Direct’s very close relationship with Newcastle United and Rangers. That’s why we’re exploring this issue.”

Hellawell:  “I think you used the word ‘significant’ didn’t you?”

“So are you saying that is an insignificant relationship between the two?”

Hellawell: “If you read the company’s accounts, you can perhaps realise the size of the company and the size of that contribution. That’s all I’ll say.”

Simon Bird also reported that later one of SD’s staff confirmed to him;

‘Newcastle’s retail arm, which has been taken over by Sports Direct is worth £3.4m of business the company. That’s £3.4m off Newcastle’s turnover, including whatever profit it brings.

Rangers retail business, now in the hands of Sports Direct, is worth £3.8m in turnover.’

Great work by Bird and Caulkin, shame nobody is allowed to ask Mike Ashley any questions at a Newcastle United AGM.

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