The majority owner of Frasers Group Mike Ashley has apologised for “ill-judged and poorly timed” emails to the government and poor communication with employees and the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter, the majority owner of Frasers Group also confirmed he has offered the company’s “entire fleet of lorries” to the NHS to help deliver medical supplies and equipment.

It comes after the retail tycoon faced criticism from MPs after he tried to claim Sports Direct was an essential operator for keeping the nation fit and would therefore stay open during the lockdown, before performing a u-turn and closing the stores.

The retail company – which rebranded from Sports Direct International last year and also owns Jack Wills, House of Fraser and Evans Cycle – faced further scorn after its finance chief wrote a letter to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Wednesday in an attempt to defend its position.

In the new open letter to Frasers Group staff, Ashley said: “Our intentions were only to seek clarity from the government as to whether we should keep some of our stores open; we would never have acted against their advice. In hindsight, our emails to the government were ill-judged and poorly timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with.”