Published: Fri, September 08, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell re-elected by investors

Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell re-elected by investors

Sports Direct chair Keith Hellawell has narrowly held on to his position following an investor revolt which saw 46.7% of independent shareholders - led by some major fund groups - ballot against him.

Sports Direct said it is still moving towards becoming the "Selfridges of sport", ahead of its annual general meeting later today.

The vote had been seen as a big test for institutional shareholders, which are under increasing pressure to hold companies to account.

Zero hours contracts were one issue Sports Direct was criticised for during the investigation into the company, and at last year's AGM Ashley pledged to offer guaranteed working hours to all staff in its stores.

READ: Sports Direct "exceeding expectations"...

The 75-year-old defended Sports Direct's use of zero-hours contracts and said there was no need for an independent review of its heavily criticised working practices.

In the report, Sports Direct admitted to a number of accusations made against it related to poor working conditions at its warehouse in Shirebrook, including underpayment of staff, punishments for taking short breaks during work hours, and a breach of health and safety practices. It took three years to recruit a permanent finance director.

Institutional shareholders Royal London Asset Management, Standard Life Aberdeen, Hermes Investment, and Fidelity International - which represents almost six per cent of the business - had voiced their opposition to Hellawell ahead of today's meeting.

Ashley, who did not attend the meeting, is also the firm's chief executive.

In a statement, the company said: "Our outlook remains optimistic in line with the statement we gave on 20 July 2017, in which we stated that we aim to achieve growth in underling EBITDA in the region of approximately 5% - 15% during FY18".

His assurances were backed by the Alex Balacki, the worker representative on the Sports Direct board, who said employees had not complained about the casual contracts.

Shares in the firm closed up 1.4 percent at 390 pence.

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