Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley attacks ‘antagonistic’ MP

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has accused a senior MP of being “deliberately antagonistic” in pursuing him to answer questions about the treatment of workers at his company, the country’s biggest sportswear retailer.

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley attacks ‘antagonistic’ MP

In a letter to Iain Wright, chairman of the British parliament’s business, innovation and skills committee, made public yesterday, Mr Ashley said he was “disgusted” by the MP’s stance.

A letter from Mr Wright to Mr Ashley, dated March 3 and made public on Wednesday, had told Mr Ashley he could be in contempt of parliament if he ignored a summons from politicians.

Mr Wright said Mr Ashley had not responded to a request to attend parliament to answer questions, nor agreed to attend. “You are abusing parliamentary procedure in an attempt to create a media circus ..., which is not in the best interests of any of the people who work at Sports Direct,” Mr Ashley said in his letter.

Sports Direct has come under fire for its employment practices and a UK newspaper investigation last year said lengthy security checks of workers at its main warehouse in Shirebrook, central England, meant some were effectively paid under legal minimum wage.

The company, which denied the allegations, launched a review of working conditions at the site, where many staff are supplied by agencies.

Mr Ashley, who owns English Premier League football club Newcastle United as well as 55% of Sports Direct’s equity, would oversee the review, the company said in December.

In Ireland he owns retailer Heatons.

Mr Ashley repeated an invitation for Mr Wright’s committee to visit Shirebrook and see for themselves the company’s working practices.

He said the media could accompany the visit.

Mr Wright has previously turned down the invitation because it did not comply with politicians’ commitment to transparency.

Parliament can in theory order a person’s imprisonment for contempt, although its powers on such actions are untested in recent times, according to a government paper published in 2012.

Shares in Sports Direct, which issued a profit warning in January, have fallen 41% over the last year. n Reuters and Irish Examiner staff

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