Mike Ashley apologises for response to COVID-19 crisis

Sports Direct Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

Sports Direct founder and Frasers Group CEO Mike Ashley has apologised for “ill-judged and poorly timed” emails to the Government and poor communication with employees and the public in the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter, the majority owner of Frasers Group also said he has offered the company’s “entire fleet of lorries” to the NHS to help deliver medical supplies and equipment.

It comes after the businessman faced fierce criticism from MPs after he tried to claim Sports Direct was an essential operator for keeping the nation fit, before performing a U-turn and closing his stores. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson even told Ashley to “expect the consequences” if he flouted lock-down rules.

Frasers Group – which rebranded from Sports Direct International last year – faced further scorn after its finance chief wrote a letter to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Wednesday in an attempt to defend its position.

In the new letter (full text below) Ashley said: “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.

“To reiterate, I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future.”

In full: Open Letter from Mike Ashley

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.

There has been no dress rehearsal for what we as a nation are currently tackling, and I for one am immensely proud of how our Government, our NHS & all of our key workers have handled the situation so far. I would especially like to thank my Frasers Group employees, who have stood by the business in difficult times before and are doing so again currently. We are working very hard to save our business, so that we can continue to be one of the biggest employers on the UK high street once this pandemic has passed. 

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.

Finally, to reiterate, I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future.

I strongly encourage everyone to follow the Government’s advice, stay safe and healthy through these challenging times, not least my employees.

Kind Regards,

Mike Ashley

CEO Frasers Group