Sports Direct names insider as acting chief financial officer

Mike Ashley at Tup Tup Palace

Sports Direct has promoted an insider to be acting finance officer in an attempt to quell shareholder complaints that its billionaire founder Mike Ashley has too much power.

The UK’s largest sporting goods retailer said Matt Pearson had been appointed acting chief financial officer with immediate effect.

Pearson joined Sports Direct in 2007 as group financial controller, having previously worked at Ernst & Young.

The FTSE 100 retailer has been criticised for its opaque corporate governance and repeated attempts to create lavish bonus schemes for Ashley, who owns 55% of the company and is executive deputy chairman.

Concerns about Ashley’s power have deepened in the 18 months the company has been without a CFO: Bob Mellors stood down on health grounds in late 2013.

One of Sports Direct’s biggest shareholders, Crispin Odey, who controls 5% of the company through his hedge fund Odey Asset Management, has complained there is no one to question Ashley’s decisions. He told the Sunday Telegraph in February that the absence of a CFO “puts too much power into one person’s hands”.

In the past 18 months, Ashley has put Sports Direct’s money on high-stakes gambles in Tesco and Debenhams stock. The company has also tried and failed to award Ashley a massive bonus.

Although Pearson has the word “acting” in front of his job title, the company is not looking for anyone else to do the CFO job. A spokesman declined to comment beyond a company statement.

Keith Hellawell, chairman of Sports Direct, said: “After a thorough process and following soundings from leading institutions, I am delighted that Matt has been appointed acting chief financial officer and is to join the board.

“Matt is already leading our group finance team and is now perfectly placed to take on the additional responsibilities of this role on an interim basis.”

Powered by article was written by Jennifer Rankin, for on Thursday 4th June 2015 09.56 Europe/ © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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