Debenhams comment by Sports Direct forces watchdog to intervene

   BREAKING Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell is to step down from the company

GETTY BREAKING Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell is to step down from the company

Despite threats to close stores because of clashes with "greedy" landlords, since the takeover Mr Ashley's team has only confirmed that seven of its 59 stores will stay open, including Telford.

"If there are opportunities there in the future, then we will be in a position to take advantage".

Bentley headed for the exit after the retailer's annual shareholder meeting alongside chairman Keith Hellawell, who has served for almost nine years and been on the receiving end of shareholder concerns about corporate governance failings and the power wielded by its billionaire founder and chief executive, Mike Ashley.

The move heads off a potential revolt from independent shareholders over corporate governance at the firm majority owned by founder Mike Ashley.

Mr Bentley, who was speaking on the day of Sports Direct's annual general meeting, later clarified his remarks.

Instead the company chairman, former top cop and "drugs czar" Keith Hellawell will be facing the music.

Three shareholder advisory groups - Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (Pirc), Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis & Co - had urged investors to vote against the re-election of Ashley and Hellawell.

Is this the Woman Who Shook Up Paulina Gretzky And Dustin Johnson?
The 29-year-old Gretzky, of course, is the daughter of legendary National Hockey League star Wayne Gretzky. Johnson had previously been suspended by the PGA after he tested positive for cocaine.

A total of 9.8 per cent of votes went against Ashley's re-election.

Mr Ashley sparked controversy after he paid £5 million to MM Prop Consultancy Limited, a company owned by Michael Murray, boyfriend of Anna Ashley.

The Financial Reporting Council accused Sports Direct, which is run by the billionaire Mike Ashley, of "obfuscation" and "obstruction" by refusing to give it documents to assist its investigation into the conduct of Grant Thornton, the accounting firm that audits the company's accounts.

The intervention by the City watchdog for corporate deals prompted Sports Direct to issue a formal statement confirming it did not plan to make a bid for the struggling department store chain for six months.

Sports Direct had said before the meeting that Ashley would not be attending due to other demands on his time.

Conditions at the retailer came under fire in a report by British lawmakers in 2016, which highlighted "appalling working practices at both the Sports Direct shops and warehouses".

Shareholders may also be offering their views on the company's decision to buy House of Fraser. Sports Direct already owns almost 30 per cent of Debenhams and has seen the value of its stake plummet this year as Debenhams' share price has fallen by 60 per cent since the start of January.

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