Retail kingpin Mike Ashley faces a crunch Sports Direct annual general meeting later with an expected shareholder rebellion against his re-election as a director.
“It’s probably not a coincidence that the media is banned from the AGM as the company finds itself increasingly under siege,” said Russ Mould of AJ Bell.
“Ashley’s own shopping spree in the past year or so is not winning many friends among investors with serious questions raised about the decision to buy House of Fraser and Jack Wills.
“Given an extremely difficult industry backdrop you have to question why the retail entrepreneur is so keen to hoover up UK retail assets.
“Though, even his biggest detractors would have to concede that Ashley has something about him, having built Sports Direct from a single store in 1982 to the UK’s largest sporting goods retailer.
“When he picks up stores from the administrators, he typically gets plenty of cheap inventories that he can sell through his raft of retail chains and websites. He also acquires store chains out of administration free of debt and with no pension liabilities.
“However, the nagging concerns over corporate governance are not going away and it is not a good look that since Grant Thornton quit as the company’s auditor in August the company has been forced to plead for a big accountancy firm to take on the task.
“If by the close of today’s AGM Sports Direct has not secured an auditor it will have to tell business secretary Andrea Leadsom within a week that she has the power to make her own appointment.
“This would really sting given the additional damage to the firm’s reputation and because Ashley hardly strikes you as someone who would relish surrendering control in this way.”