BusinessCompany NewsOn the money with Gavin Hinks

On the money with Gavin Hinks

Like the boy in the park losing a game of football, John Ashley, founder and majority shareholder at billion- pound retailer Sports Direct, has declared 'it's my ball and I’m going in'

Well, that’s how petulant the company looks after it refused to let analysts
speak to the finance director following an indication that sales might be down.

The row reached a head last week when the chairman, David Richardson resigned
amid acrimony over access for analysts and the appointment of advisers. That’s a
nasty own goal.

Worse was to come. Sports Direct conceded another goal when their appointed
adviser, Merrill Lynch, let it be known that it believed corporate governance at
the company had been compromised. That’s Ashley down 2 nil – and both own goals.

The company then remained under attack through the weekend as unattributed
suggestions appeared in the press that FD Bob Mellors should resign too.

Suddenly Sports Direct was on the brink of a third self inflicted wound.

What should Mellors do? Smart money would say he should bail out. The City –
the supporters – is turning against Ashley, the press can sense an embarrassing
defeat and it doesn’t look like there are many super subs out there waiting to
come on.

But perhaps Mellors hopes he can turn things around because surely he cannot
believe he can continue without talking to the City – that simply is not the way
the game is played. The last time that was acceptable in the financial world
Stanley Matthews was still pulling his boots on every Saturday.

By the time you read this, of course, it might all be over. If not, spare a
thought for Bob Mellors. Business and finance can be a funny old game.

Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age

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