Mike Ashley has said he has put his plans to rescue struggling high street retailers to a halt. The Sports Direct owner and founder said he will not step in to rescue any more collapsed retailers as Mothercare fell into administration on Tuesday, putting 2900 jobs at risk.
Ashley said he will do nothing to save Mothercare, whose 79 British stores are now thought likely to shut. A spokesman for Sports Direct said: “While there continue to be retailers in distress, with the latest example being Mothercare, Sports Direct currently has no intention of looking at saving any of these retailers whilst there is a lack of protection for shareholders or owners, because unscrupulous politicians are more interested in their own PR than doing what is right.”
Sports Direct has bought Evans Cycles, House of Fraser and Jack Wills from administration. It has stakes in fashion brand French Connection and online discount business Findel, among others. Last week, Ashley criticised MPs for not “properly investigating” the Debenhams collapse.
The comments came after he increased his efforts to continue an investigation into Debenhams’ administration. The tycoon said that MPs were far more concerned with their own PR rather than delving into corporate misconduct. In April, Debenhams’ administration saw Ashley’s £150 million stake in the business wiped out as lenders took over the department store chain.
In August 2018, Ashley’s Sports Direct swooped in to buy House of Fraser for £90 million in a pre-pack administration deal after its collapse put 17,000 jobs at risk in what was believed to become the biggest high street casualty since the fall of BHS.
He pledged to transform the ailing department store chain into the “Harrods of the High Street” but later admitted that he regretted taking it on after discovering problems which were “nothing short of terminal”.
Sports Direct repeatedly delayed releasing its latest annual results, which showed a surprise €674 million (£605 million) tax demand from authorities in Belgium. In late June, Game Digital gave Sports Direct the green light for a £52 million takeover, which would see House of Fraser stores rolling out purpose-built gaming arenas for video gamers.
However, Ashley lost against Canadian media mogul Doug Putman in the race to acquiring HMV in February, which fell into administration and put 1500 jobs at risk. Sports Direct has also been linked with collapsed luxury jewellery retailer Links of London, which went into administration last month.