LONDON — Discount sporting goods retailer Sports Direct is taking a leaf out of US President Donald Trump’s book, attacking a report about its CEO’s pay as “fake news.”
Sports Direct issued a statement on Wednesday saying that data compiled by Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (“PIRC”) and published by newspaper City AM showing that Sports Direct has a CEO-to-employee pay ratio of 400:1 is incorrect. The story in question appears to have been removed from City AM’s website.
A spokesperson for the company said in a statement:
“This is fake news that appears to have been either deliberately or recklessly circulated by an irresponsible organisation that is making headlines at the expense of Sports Direct. We have contacted PIRC to request a copy of the report and we will be writing to them to express our disappointment. It is incorrect to state that Sports Direct has the second-highest ratio of chief executive-to-average employee pay.”
Sports Direct says the incorrect data appears to be a result of PIRC including unvested bonus entitlements in its calculations. Dave Forsey, who was until recently CEO, chose to forego this bonus. When the unvested bonus is excluded from the calculations, the CEO-to-employee pay ratio is closer to 9:1, Sports Direct says.
Sports Direct’s billionaire founder Mike Ashley replaced Forsey as CEO of the business in September in a bid to turn around the scandal-hit retailer. Ashley does not take a salary in his role as CEO.
Sports Direct came under intense pressure from the press, MPs, and investors last year. Parliament’s influential Business, Innovation, and Skills committee concluded that the chain was run like a “Victorian workhouse” and this led investors to call for sweeping management changes.
Ashley founded Sports Direct in 1982 and grew it into a multi-billion pound retail empire. Until last September he was executive vice chairman and is the majority owner.
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