Controversial boss of Derbyshire-based Sports Direct set to step down to make way for future son-in-law

The controversial boss of Shirebrook-based Sports Direct is set to step down from leading the reigns of his retail empire and hand the running over to his son-in-law.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 12:21 pm

The board of Frasers Group, which also owns House of Fraser, said talks were under way for Michael Murray, 31, to succeed billionaire Mike Ashley in May next year.

The company first hit the headlines in 2014 after a migrant worker gave birth in one of the toilets at the main Shirebrook distribution centre – prompting a major investigation from the Derbyshire Times.

A police investigation revealed that she had been too terrified to take time off, for fear of falling foul of the company’s then draconian employment practices.

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Mike Ashley giving evidence at the Parliamentary enquiry

Subsequent inquiries by the BBC and Guardian newspaper into working practices at the site revealed some shocking operational practices, including staff – who largely hailed from Eastern Europe – being strip-searched when they finished their shifts, and a British man suffering a heart attack at work – not wanting to fall foul of the firm’s highly-criticised ‘strike system’.

The company finally cleaned up its act following a Parliamentary enquiry into its operations, as a result of the on-going media probe.

The move would see Mr Ashley step down from as chief executive but remain on the board as an executive director.

He founded Sports Direct in 1982 and retains 64 per cent of the group.

Sports Direct's main Shirebrook base

Mr Murray, engaged to be married to Mr Ashley's daughter Anna, is currently "head of elevation" at Frasers and is in charge of modernising stores and transforming the business.

According to a stock market statement, Frasers Group said it was "currently proposed" that Mr Murray would assume the role of chief executive, with a "reward and remuneration package" now being considered.

"The board consider it appropriate that Michael leads us forward on this increasingly successful elevation journey," the statement said.

Mr Murray has been working for the group for several years, but his role at the company raised eyebrows after reports about him being paid millions in consultancy fees.

Mr Ashley has been one of the High Street's most prominent and colourful figures since founding his business.

In 2017, it was reported that he drank 12 pints and vodka shots at a company meeting at an Alfreton pub, before vomiting into a fireplace.