Mike Ashley: why is Sports Direct founder stepping down - and who is his successor, son in law Michael Murray?

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The Frasers Group chief executive role will be passed on to Anna Ashley’s fiance

Mike Ashley is set to step down as chief executive of Frasers Group, the owner of Sports Direct, in May 2022.

The role will be handed over to his daughter’s fiance, 31-year-old Michael Murray, who is currently Frasers’ “head of elevation”.

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Here’s all you need to know about Mike Ashley and who’s in like to replace him at chief executive.

Sports Direct International founder Mike Ashley  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)Sports Direct International founder Mike Ashley  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Sports Direct International founder Mike Ashley (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Who is Mike Ashley?

Mike Ashley is the founder and chief executive officer of UK retailer Sports Direct.

He built his retail empire with a loan from his family in the 1980’s. He set up his first sports and ski shop in 1982, and by 1990 he had 100 stores re-branded as Sports Direct in the UK.

Alongside his Sports Direct shops, Mr Ashley started to expand his portfolio by acquiring other companies in the late 1990s.

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Donnay, Lillywhites and Lonsdale were picked up and added to his stable at a time when all three companies were struggling financially.

Mr Ashley then bought Carlton, Dunlop, Slazenger and Karrimor in 2004 before a seven-year spending spree, which saw him purchase Campri, No Fear, Kangol and Firetrap among others.

During this time he also bought Newcastle United Football Club and has since used St James’ Park as a way to advertise Sports Direct.

In 2018, Mr Ashley jumped to the rescue to buy another struggling business, this time the House of Fraser for £90 million which he hopes to turn into the ‘Harrods of the High Street’.

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He has a property portfolio that included a 33-bedroom London house, priced at £12m, and holiday homes in Spain and Miami.

Who will replace Mike Ashley as chief executive?

Frasers announced that it was in discussions about “transitioning” the chief executive role to 31-year-old Michael Murray, who is currently Frasers’ “head of elevation”.

"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."

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Murray got involved in the business by helping Mike Ashley with personal property deals a few years after meeting his daughter Anna on holiday in 2011.

He has since been Ashley’s right -hand man, helping to oversee a revamp of Sports Direct stores as well as expanding Flannels. He has also overseen the improvement of the group's use of technology and built relationships with high-end brands.

In recent years, Murray has secured series of struggling brands including House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Jack Wills.

Last year, Murray easy involved in the failed attempt to buy up Debenhams, which was eventually sold to online-only brand Boohoo.

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