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Who Is Mike Ashley? What Was His Role at Sports Direct?

Mike Ashley is a British billionaire and sporting goods retail entrepreneur. He founded Sports Direct, later the Frasers Group PLC, and served as the company’s director. CEO until 2022.

As of 2022, his net worth is estimated to be around $5.3 billion.

Key points to remember

  • Michael Ashley is the founder of the UK’s largest sporting goods retailer, Sports Direct.
  • He was also COO of Frasers Group PLC until 2022.
  • Ashley made $1.8 billion from the Sports Direct IPO in 2007.
  • He bought British football club Newcastle United in 2007.

Youth and education

Mike Ashley was born on September 9, 1964 in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England. After graduating from Burnham School at the age of 16, Ashley played squash at local county level. An injury ended his playing tenure and he entered the fitness industry as a squash coach before opening his first sports shop in Maidenhead, Berkshire in 1982.

Successful entrepreneur Mike Ashley expanded to 50 stores across the UK in 1990 and rebranded his chain as Sports Soccer.

Sports Direct

In the late 1990s Sports Soccer grew to over 100 stores across the UK and was again renamed Sports Direct International PLC. The company has become the largest sporting goods chain in the UK, selling sports, lifestyle and fitness products.

Between 2004 and 2012 Ashley acquired over 20 companies including Carlton, Dunlop, LA Gear, No Fear and Everlast Worldwide. Worth £2.5 billion, Sports Direct International PLC went public through an initial public offering in February 2007.

As he grew as a leader in the field of sports equipment, Mike Ashley acted as Alert launcher in 2000, providing evidence to the Office of Fair Trading in the UK that numerous sports equipment sellers colluded to fix prices for sports jerseys and shirts.

In 2019 the company became Frasers Group PLC. As of 2022, the company operates over 769 stores and employs over 25,000 people.

Mike Ashley stepped down as CEO, a position he had held since 1982, when his company was founded, of Frasers Group PLC in May 2022. He remains a member of the board, retaining 64% of the company. Since August 2022, Mike Ashley net value is $5.3 billion.

Newcastle United

Mike Ashley acquired professional football team Newcastle United in 2007 for around £135million. He is famous for sitting in the stands with fans of Premier League football club, a team founded in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1892. Newcastle United won the league championship in 2017.

In October 2021, Ashley sold Newcastle United to a Saudi sovereign wealth fund-backed consortium for around $400 million.

Is Mike Ashley still an active commercial investor?

From 2022, Mike Ashley is pursuing the purchase of Derby Soccer Club, currently in contention. Having recently sold Newcastle United in 2021, Ashley remains interested in owning the club.

What problem did Sports Direct face?

The company has been accused of exploiting its workers. In 2016 CEO Mike Ashley admitted that workers at his Derbyshire warehouse were being paid below minimum wage and that the company had fined staff for being late.

Are there any stores competing with Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct chain of stores?

A new eco-friendly second-hand sports store is set to secure funding and challenge Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct franchise in the UK.

Sports Traider is a charity shop that focuses on sporting goods and an alternative that will filter money from Sports Traider to the community.

The essential

Mike Ashley is considered a successful British billionaire and entrepreneur. He started as a squash player and coach and grew to run the UK’s most successful sporting goods retail company. His role as CEO lasted 40 years. Ashley’s lifelong interest in football influenced her purchase of the Newcastle United Premier League in the UK

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