Published: Thu, September 07, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell narrowly survives shareholder revolt

Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell narrowly survives shareholder revolt

Shares in Sports Direct were trading up 2.1% at 392.1 pence on Wednesday, among the top performers in the FTSE 250 on the day of its annual general meeting.

Despite the public declarations observers say that the vote is too close to call.

Standard Life Aberdeen, Fidelity and Hermes were among the major institutional shareholders to throw their weight behind the campaign to oust Hellawell, with backing from advisory businesses Pirc and the Institutional Shareholder Service.

More than half of independent shareholders a year ago voted against the reappointment of former West Yorkshire police chief Hellawell, who only held onto his position after Ashley threw his 61% shareholding behind him.

It is a big...

They were greeted by a Unite union-organised demonstration over working practices and the continued use of zero-hours contracts for casual staff, despite Sports Direct previously pledging to abolish them by offering guaranteed hours to all staff.

Speaking at Sports Direct's controversial warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, he said the biggest challenge for the company this year was to "recognise things that are wrong and have to be put right".

In September past year, Hellawell offered to step down from his role "in light of the shortcomings" highlighted in the company's working practices report released that month.

Alex Balacki, the store manager who was elected to the board by workers employed Sports Direct - not warehouse staff who are hired via agencies - backed Hellawell's comments.

"While that still is a legal form of employment we will choose if we wish to continue with that form of employment", he said.

"A very large proportion of our workers are happy to maintain that flexibility". "In spite of the progress over the past year, there remain significant governance questions about Sports Direct".

The retailer added that the performance of its "new generation flagship stores" was exceeding expectations.

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