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Mike Ashley confirms plans to step down as top CEO of Frasers Group
05 August 2021

Frasers Group has confirmed that it is planning a leadership reshuffle which would see founder Mike Ashley step away from his role as the retail empire’s CEO.

The parent company of Sports Direct, House of Fraser, USC and Flannels said it was currently proposed that Michael Murray – the retail tycoon’s prospective son-in-law – will become CEO in May next year.

It added that, should Murray take over, Ashley would remain on the board as an executive director.

The 31-year-old potential replacement, who is engaged to the founder’s daughter Anna, is currently head of elevation at Frasers and has been tasked with modernising the business and creating a more upmarket image.

Mike Ashley

Mike Ashley leaves Sports Direct’s 2019 results announcement with Michael Murray (left), his potential replacement as Frasers Group CEO (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Fraser told investors that a pay and bonus deal was currently being drawn up on the basis that Murray would become CEO.

“The group’s elevation strategy is transforming the business and receiving positive feedback from consumers and our brand partners, especially on projects such as the new Oxford Street Sports Direct which opened in June 2021,” the firm added.

“The board consider it appropriate that Michael leads us forward on this increasingly successful elevation journey.”

Sports Direct Oxford Street

Sports Direct Oxford Street

Ashley founded Sports Direct in Maidenhead, Berkshire, in 1982 and has now grown his retail empire to be worth around £3 billion and cover almost 1,000 stores.

Frasers also revealed on Thursday that its profits plunged for the past year after sales were hit by enforced high street closures during the pandemic.

The retail giant said pre-tax profits dived by 94.1% to £8.5 million for the year to 25 April, compared with £143.5 million in the previous year. Group revenues were down 8.5% to £3.6bn.

Ashley said: “The group is continuing to invest in its physical and digital elevation strategy and our omni-channel offering is growing in strength.

“Our stores in the UK have reopened above expectations and our online channel continues to significantly outperform pre-Covid-19 periods.

“Nonetheless, management remains of the view that there is a high risk of future Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, likely to be over this Winter and maybe beyond.”

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