Mike Ashley met with the MPs yesterday in front of a Commons Committee for a full 90 minutes to answer questions relating to Sports Direct and the way his company treats their staff and whether there needs to be radical improvements made across the board.
The reports coming out seem to vary quite a bit, but generally they are that Ashley was honest, forthcoming and surprisingly open, after he had resisted meeting with the Committee for so long.
He wore a black and white striped tie, which looked smart and of course it was a Newcastle United tie.
Mike Ashley during the meeting yesterday with MPs
The first comment from the Chairman of the Committee Iain Wright was:
“That looks suspiciously like a Newcastle United tie.”
Ashley didn’t comment or react in any way which kind of set the tone, at least initially for the meeting.
We suppose the reports from football related outlets and whether Mike was good or not is dependent on what people think of Ashley as the Newcastle owner, but he did appear to be fairly relaxed and even human.
He agreed with most of the comments about the fact that Sports Direct could be run a lot better and even said the company had probably got too big for him to run – which was an interesting comment.
He also at one point said he wasn’t Father Christmas.
His PR man Keith Bishop sitting right next to him said very little and then right at the end when Ashley was asked if he wanted to buy BHS, Keith intervened and said “no comment”.
But then Mike ignored his advice completely and said the following:
“I can’t resist. 100% I wanted to buy BHS. That’s why they say you can’t City train me, you can’t house train me.”
“You ask me something and I blurt it out.”
Newcastle fans have heard very little from the Billionaire owner in his nine years in charge of Newcastle – there was the Sky Sports interview a year ago and then a few weeks after Rafa Benitez came to the club, Ashley said it was a mistake to have bought Newcastle United.
It was interesting that during the meeting yesterday the Sports Direct share price rose and that’s always an indication the owner was doing well and Ashley certainly held his own and a number of reports even said he charmed the committee.
The share price opened yesterday at around £365 and closed at around £384 and it’s up today too.
At another point when Keith Bishop had intervened Mike made the comment:
“I’m not media trained – you can’t media train me.” “I’m going to put my foot in my mouth and say what’s in my heart.”
We are just hoping there is a sea change in the way Ashley runs Newcastle United and what we’d like to see is for him to continue to stay in the background, now that Rafa Benitez is effectively in charge of the club along with help from Lee Charnley.
Mike didn’t get involved last season as Steve McClaren, aided and abetted by Lee Charnley, took the club down and he should have.
However, he needs to stay completely in the background as Rafa orchestrates a comeback for Newcastle United Football club, starting hopefully with automatic promotion back to the Premier League next May.
That’s the first step in the recovery and that’s what is important right now.