Founded in 1982, Sports Direct is the UK's largest retailer of sporting goods, offering a variety of sports, fitness, fashion and lifestyle brands. The company operated 700 sports stores around the UK and Europe as well as 50 e-commerce websites and it owns other retailers including House of Fraser, Flannels, USC and Lillywhites.
Headed by CEO Mike Ashley who has been dubbed the "Hoover of the high street" for his prolific deal making, the group has been rapidly expanded through acquisition of late. In 2018 it acquired House of Fraser out of administration and went on to buy Evans Cycles and Sofa.com.
Ashley had a tilt at both HMV and Patisserie Valerie but neither deal came off and is (in March 2019) said to be interested in picking up LK Bennett, which is in administration. A bid for home shopping group Findel has also been rejected as the board says it undervalues the group.
However it is Debenhams that remains Ashley's obsession for now. Already a near 30% shareholder, Ashley has made several manoeuvres to try to gain control of the struggling chain. He has used his voting power to successful oust former chairman Sir Ian Cheshire and has CEO Sergio Bucher removed from the board (though for now he remains in post).
Recently shares in Sports Direct have slumped more than 15% after bosses were forced to delay publication of the company’s highly anticipated results. Mike Ashley’s retail empire admitted to numerous complexities in integrating department store chain House of Fraser, which it bought earlier this year.
Analysts were shocked at the decision, with some suggesting the company is too overstretched to run such a sprawling retail empire. Sports Direct had been due to update the stock market on Thursday, but this will now be pushed back until some time between 26 July and 23 August, it said.
In a statement, Sports Direct said its auditors, Grant Thornton, need more time to sign off the accounts.