Sports Direct accuses lobby group of ‘fake news’ over pay claims

Retailer denies it has chief executive-to-average employee pay ratio of 400 to one

 Mike Ashley of Sports Direct  outside the company’s  headquarters in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Mike Ashley of Sports Direct outside the company’s headquarters in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

 

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has lashed out at an influential shareholder lobby group, accusing it of “fake news” for claims over its executive pay ratios.

The retailer said a report by Pensions and Investment Research Consultants (Pirc) “incorrectly claims that Sports Direct had a chief executive-to-average employee pay ratio of 400 to one , the second highest in the FTSE 350”.

The data sets used in the study were “incorrect”, according to the retailer, and based on a bonus entitlement which was accrued by former chief executive Dave Forsey but was never paid out.

A Sports Direct spokesman said: “This is fake news that appears to have been either deliberately or recklessly circulated by an irresponsible organisation that is making headlines at the expense of Sports Direct.

“We have contacted Pirc to request a copy of the report, and we will be writing to them to express our disappointment. It is incorrect to state that Sports Direct has the second highest ratio of chief executive-to-average employee pay.”

Sports Direct added that the true ratio over 2012 to 2015, had it paid out, would have been “closer to 9:1”.

Mr Ashley, who came under fire from MPs over “Victorian” working conditions at the firm’s warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, last year, has been a busy man recently. Last week the tycoon said Sports Direct would appoint an employees’ representative who would attend board meetings following the uproar over working conditions.

He has also snapped up an 11 per cent stake in French Connection, and upped the position Sports Direct has in Debenhams to above 11 per cent. – PA