Mike Ashley is to step down from the board of Frasers Group, which owns high street brands including Sports Direct and House of Fraser, 40 years after he opened his first shop in Maidenhead.
The company announced that the billionaire retail tycoon, the founder of the UK’s biggest sports goods chain Sports Direct, would not be standing for re-election as a director at this year’s annual meeting on 19 October.
He will remain as the company’s controlling shareholder with an almost 70% stake, and continue to act as an adviser to the board and senior management.
Ashley stepped back from running Frasers in May, when he installed his son-in-law, Michael Murray, as chief executive. One former worker described Murray as “a more acceptable version of Mike Ashley”.
Ashley said: “Since Michael Murray took over the leadership of Frasers Group earlier this year, the business has gone from strength to strength. It is clear that the group has the right leadership and strategy in place and I feel very confident passing the baton to Michael and his team.
“Although I am stepping down from the board, I remain 100% committed to supporting Frasers and Michael’s plans and ambitions, and I look forward to helping the team as and when they require me. My commitment and support as a Frasers shareholder is as strong as ever.”
Frasers said Ashley would provide the group with £100m of additional funding, as part of his continuing support for the business.
Murray said: “Mike has built an incredible business over the past 40 years and, on behalf of the board and the group, I want to thank him for all he has done. With our new strategy and leadership team, we are driving this business forward at pace and we are all excited for the future.”
Frasers recently rejoined the FTSE 100 index of the UK’s leading shares after a six-year absence. The group, which then traded as Sports Direct, fell out of the blue-chip index in 2016 after its share price slumped on the back of a Guardian investigation that revealed poor pay and working conditions at the company as well as poor trading in its stores.
Ashley has acquired the House of Fraser department store chain in 2018 and has been investing heavily in the luxury Flannels chain. The Frasers share price has risen 17% in the past year.