Mike Ashley, the founder and majority shareholder of Sports Direct is continuing to refuse to appear in front of a Parliamentary committee, but he did just give a rare interview, defending his actions and saying his company is being “subjected to public vilification.”
Ashley has been summoned to speak to the House of Commons Business, Innovation, and Skills committee to speak about the treatment of workers at Sports Direct warehouses and stores, but is currently saying he will not appear.
Ashley is known for rarely speaking in public, but on Monday he gave an interview to Sky News, where he criticised parliament, and called the order as an “abuse of the Parliamentary process.”
Here’s more of what Ashley said to Sky:
“I do not pretend to get everything right all of the time, but I am not willing to stand idle while this company is subjected to public vilification which is against the best interests of everybody who works at Sports Direct.
“My current intention is that I will not attend Westminster on June 7 as I believe the proposal by Iain Wright MP (whom I have offered to meet in Shirebrook) is an abuse of the Parliamentary process.
“I therefore intend to challenge the attendance order issued by the BIS Committee and I will be sending a formal reply to the committee in due course.”
Ashley went on to invite members of the committee to come to a Sports Direct office, saying: “Come here and see it for yourself. You will have to apologise once you’ve been here.”
Ashley then went on to call members of the committee a joke. Here he is again (emphasis ours):
“They would make a lot more informed decision if they were able to see it for themselves and then I don’t think they would actually need to want to see me and carry on the media circus.
“They clearly don’t care about the people at Sports Direct. In my opinion they are just showboating. In my opinion they are actually a joke.”
The BIS Committee has said that if he continues to refuse to appear, Ashley could be charged with being in contempt of Parliament, something that reportedly, hasn’t happened in over 50 years.
Sports Direct has faced a series of scandals in the past couple of years, and among other things, has been criticised for effectively paying workers less than minimum wage, although since the allegations were made in The Guardian newspaper, Sports Direct has committed to paying at least minimum wage to all staff, costing the company £10 million ($14.5 million).
Last month, Ashley was also criticised by a series of major investors for treating Sports Direct like “his own personal plaything” and acting like the company’s chief executive, despite currently holding the position of vice chairman.
Sports Direct recently found out it will lose its position in the FTSE 100, after seeing shares bomb by more than 50% in just over six months.