News that Mike Ashley is stepping down from the board feels like a seismic moment for Frasers Group.
Ashley has been so synonymous, for both good and bad, with the retail empire which has grown out of the Sports Direct brand that his departure, even if he will remain a major shareholder and adviser to the company, is a big shock.
AJ Bell’s Russ Mould said: “He may have divided opinion in the City, but his entrepreneurial skills still helped take the business from a single store in Maidenhead to one of the UK’s largest retailers.
“Without him on the board Frasers may have a bit of an identity crisis. Ashley’s strategy of buying fallen competitors and adopting a ‘pile them high, sell them cheap’ approach to retail may have attracted criticism but it had some clarity to it.
“Without him, will Frasers management have the same level of ruthlessness or will it start to look like a bloated and unfocused business at a time when the pressures on the industry are very acute?
“A lot will fall on the shoulders of the current CEO and Ashley’s son-in-law, Michael Murray, which shows that Ashley is literally keeping the leadership of the business he built in the family.”
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