The Mirror have finally managed to get an exclusive interview with Mike Ashley – sort of – although Mike hasn’t said too much – other than a couple of sentences and lets his people answer most of the questions about Sports Direct involvement with Newcastle United and Rangers.
Mike Ashley – answers questions – sort of
Here is the full Mirror report – but we thought it would be interesting to publish here the transcript from the Mirror – without comment.
Here is the transcript of exchanges between Mike Ashley and reporters at Sports Direct’s AGM on Wednesday afternoon, regarding Newcastle and Rangers.
Reporter Simon Bird reports that Mike Ashley was extremely uncomfortable during the interview and didn’t want to say too much.
And there is an article in the Telegraph that is reporting that Mike Ashley will sell Newcastle, in order to pursue getting more involved financially with Rangers.
Note – Keith Hellawell is the current Chairman of Sports Direct.
Question: “I’d like to address a question to Mr Ashley, please. I wonder if he could explain the benefits to Sports Direct in its relationship with Newcastle United and Rangers.
The Mirror points out here there is a silence of 27 seconds (approximately of course).
Answer: “Other than to say than it’s been beneficial to Sports Direct and therefore its shareholders, I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment.”
Question: “Newcastle have said publicly, for example, that Sports Direct don’t pay for any stadium advertising or perimeter advertising at St James’ Park – and there’s obviously a lot of it – and I wonder what the benefit is to you and whether you could give a rough estimate of what it’s worth in financial terms please.”
Answer: “I think I summed it all up in my previous statement. Those relationships are very beneficial to Sports Direct and its shareholders. And I think that nothing else needs to be said.”
Question: “With due respect, can I then reverse the question. What is the benefit to the relationship they have with Sports Direct for Newcastle United, in which you are the owner, and Rangers, in which you have a shareholding? What is the benefit to those institutions?”
Keith Hellawell intervenes:
“This is really… That isn’t for the Annual General Meeting of this company. The first question was, in relation to what benefit the company gain from that. I think in relation to what Manchester United, sorry Newcastle United, and Rangers gain, you’d have to ask them. There’s no-one from the board of those companies here. It’s not to do with this company.”
Question: “Well, there is one member on the board (Ashley).”
Another director: “Yes, but this is a Sports Direct Annual General Meeting.”
Question: “I know. I’m aware of that. I was just correcting that error. Can I direct a question to Mr Ashley? Sports Direct now process and profit from the shirt sales and merchandising through Newcastle United, the website and the club shop. Can you explain how much this trade is worth? Is it a significant part of the business to Sports Direct and do you, Newcastle, share in that profit?
Ashley: “I’ll only answer the same answer as I gave before.”
Question: “Okay. A follow-up question. A Rangers director stated last week that Mr Ashley had bought the naming rights to Ibrox two years ago for £1. First question, is this true? Second question, St James’ Park was once named Sports Direct Arena and the suggestion is the same could happen to Ibrox. Could he comment on that?
Answer: “I’ll only answer the same answer that I answered before.”
Question: “Okay, thank you.”
Sports Direct Arena II? Ashley reportedly has naming rights to Scottish giants Rangers’ Ibrox home
Hellawell: “We are really straying beyond the AGM. We’re trying to be helpful.”
Question: “I would just say the questions are relevant to resolution one in the company accounts and how the company accounts are being boosted by Sports Direct’s very close relationship with Newcastle United and Rangers. That’s why we’re exploring this issue.”
Hellawell: “I think you used the word ‘significant’ didn’t you?”
Question: “So are you saying that’s an insignificant relationship between the two?”
Hellawell: “If you read the company’s accounts, you can perhaps realise the size of the company and the size of that contribution. That’s all I’ll say.”
Question: “Perhaps I can ask a follow up? Does Mr Ashley have any plans to increase his shareholding in Rangers to the possible benefit of Sports Direct and its shareholders?”
Answer: indistinguishable to the Mirror.
Question: “We are talking about a massive company and two of the largest football clubs in Britain. It’s an interesting relationship that’s being forged. As I shareholder I’m exploring the relationship between two very large football institutions and Sports Direct, a very large and successful company. That’s why I’m asking these questions.
Hellawell: “I do understand that and I understand your frustration. Please accept we’re trying to be as helpful as we can, but those are not issues for the Sports Direct board. I think you need to take those up with Newcastle and with… I mean, Mike is an individual but as part of this corporate board now, it’s really not something we can answer.”
Question: “One not related to football: Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrisons are among the companies who say they don’t use zero hour contracts. Should Sports Direct follow their lead?”
Answer: “I think I’ve answered that in terms of not being able to talk about our employment policy, other than to say we hold them in the highest regard and believe the success of this company is largely based on the contribution they’ve made and we will look out for them as best we can.”
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