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Mike Ashley to stand down from the business he founded – and then took upmarket 

Sports Direct's transformation into Frasers Group started with the 2018 acquisition of House of Fraser. Image courtesy of House of Fraser

Mike Ashley, who founded Sports Direct before transforming it into the more upmarket – and brand-friendly – Frasers Group, is to stand down from the business.

Ashley said today that at this year’s annual general meeting – to be held next month – he would not be standing for re-election as a director of the multichannel retail business he founded 40 years ago. He will continue to be a shareholder and is to support the group by lending it a further £100m in extra funding. 

Mike Ashley says: “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.”

Michael Murray, chief executive of Frasers Group, says: “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. We are grateful to have Mike’s support and expertise available to us as we continue the next stage of Frasers Group’s journey.”

Mike Ashley founded Sports Direct in 1982 and took it public in 2007. It has since shifted its focus to department stores and the high street more widely, starting with the acquisition of Flannels in 2017 and department store House of Fraser out of administration in 2018. In 2019, the business’ name changed to Frasers Group, reflecting an ongoing multichannel ‘elevation strategy’ – led by Murray – that aimed to make it a more attractive place for brands to sell. Frasers Group this summer opened a flagship Flannels department store in Liverpool. 

It has also gone on to buy a wide range of brands, often out of administration. Today its brands include Jack Wills, ranked a Top50 retailer in RXUK Top500 research, Evans Cycles and Game (Top100), House of Fraser (Top150), Sports Direct (Top250), Flannels (Top350), Missguided and Studio Retail.

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