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Mike Ashley apologises after keeping Sports Direct stores open and hiking online prices



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Retail tycoon issues open letter in an attempt to repair tarnished reputation

Friday, 27th March 2020, 8:41 am

Updated Friday, 27th March 2020, 8:42 amMike Ashley said his actions had been “ill-judged and poorly timed” (Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has said he is “deeply apologetic” for his “personal actions” following a series of mistakes in his company’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

In an attempt to repair his tarnished reputation the boss of Frasers group, which also include retail brands such as House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Jack Wills, published an open letter this morning on the London Stock Exchange apologising for “ the misunderstandings of the last few days” and said he “will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future”.

He also admitted his actions had been “ill-judged and poorly timed”.

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Earlier this week Mr Ashley faced a huge backlash after he insisted his Sport Direct stores should remain open despite Government instructions for all but essential retailers to close their doors. At the time he claimed the sports equipment sold in the stores were essential item.

Online price hikes

However, after asking the Government for clarification he was forced to close all Sports Direct outlets.

Despite the climbdown, Mr Ashley was then accused of hiking prices on the Sports Direct website prices by more than 50 per cent on some sports equipment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. He was also said to be forcing staff into branches of fashion store Jack Wills, despite Government advice to stay at home unless you are an “essential” worker.

By Tuesday Mr Ashley had finally closed all the retail chain within the Fraser’s group. But by Wednesday he caused another outcry after collecting payments from season ticket holders at Newcastle United Football Club, which he also owns.

Fleet of lorries offered to help NHS

In his open letter Mr Ashley wrote: “Given what has taken place over the last few days, I thought it was necessary to address and apologise for much of what has been reported across various media outlets regarding my personal actions and those of the Frasers Group business.

“Our intentions were only to seek clarity from the Government as to whether we should keep some of our stores open; we would never have acted against their advice. In hindsight, our emails to the Government were ill-judged and poorly timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with. On top of this, our communications to our employees and the public on this was poor.”

Mr Ashley went on to reiterate his offer to the Government to support the efforts of the NHS.

He said: “Outside of Frasers Group, I have offered our support to the NHS and we are poised and ready for when that offer is accepted, with our entire fleet of lorries at their disposal – to help deliver medical equipment and supplies. This offer is not limited to the NHS but all key workforces across the Government. We will help wherever possible.”