Sports Direct

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Sports Direct International plc
Traded as LSESPD
Industry Retailing
Founded 1982; 34 years ago (1982)
Headquarters Port Sunlight, Wirral, England
Key people
Keith Hellawell (Chairman)
Mike Ashley (Founder and Deputy Executive Chairman)
Dave Forsey (chief executive)
Products Sporting goods
Revenue £2.706 billion (2014)[1]
£249 million (2014)[1]
Profit £180 million (2014)[1]
Number of employees
24,000 (2013)

Sports Direct International plc is a British retailing group. Established in 1982, by Mike Ashley, the company is the United Kingdom's largest sporting retailer, and operates over 500 stores worldwide.[2] The company owns a large number of sporting brands, and trades predominantly under the brand. Other retailers owned by the company include USC and Lillywhites. The company operates under low margins.[3]

Sports Direct has been a publicly traded company since 2007 and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Mike Ashley has continued to hold a majority stake in the business, and his holding has been 61.7 percent since October 2013.[4]

Sporting and fashion brands owned include Donnay, Slazenger, Firetrap, Dunlop (in most markets), Everlast, Kangol, Karrimor and Lonsdale.


Early history[edit]

The company was founded by Mike Ashley in 1982 as a single store in Maidenhead trading under the name of Mike Ashley Sports.[5] In 1984, Preston Sports shop was opened in London and by 1992 the Company had 12 stores.[5] 1995/96 saw the stores change to Sports Soccer along with the re-location of head office and warehouse to a 100,000 sq. foot unit in Dunstable.[5] The number of retail stores had now increased to 50, along with the acquisition of the Donnay tennis and golf brand.[5] Ashley incorporated the business in 1999.[6]

By 2000, the business had 80 stores, and had formed a joint venture in Belgium, with 22 stores trading as Disport.[5] The Lillywhites chain of 10 stores and the Lonsdale brand were acquired in 2002 and by 2003, the number of retail stores had increased to 150.[5][7] In 2005 the company began a major rebrand of the stores, changing the fascias to Sports World.[5]

Sports Direct in the former Lillywhite's shop on the Headrow in Leeds

Dunlop acquisition[edit]

In February 2004, the company acquired Dunlop Slazenger for around £40M, which included the Dunlop, Slazenger and Carlton brands.[8] This was followed by the acquisitions of outdoor gear manufacturer Karrimor in March for a reported £5 million.[9] In 2006 he acquired Kangol for an estimated £12 million.[10] Most of these brands were bought from distressed sellers. After looking at a takeover,[11] Sports Direct took a £9 million stake and signed a lucrative long-term deal in August 2005 with troubled brand Umbro,[12] which was subsequently sold to Nike.

The brands themselves are an increasingly important part of the business, and Sports Direct made £10M, from selling the intellectual-property rights to the Slazenger Golf brand to arch-rival JJB in 2005.[6]

Going public[edit]

In late November 2006, a number of business newspapers reported that Ashley was looking at an IPO of Sports World International. He hired Merrill Lynch,[13] who valued the group at up to £2.5bn ahead of a possible flotation on the London Stock Exchange.[14] The group debuted on the exchange on 27 February 2007.[15]

Recent history[edit]

In December 2006, it was revealed that Sports Direct had built up a 29.4% stake in Blacks Leisure Group, the owner of Millets.[16]

In May 2007, it was also revealed that Ashley had held talks with John Hargreaves, founder of Matalan on both taking a 25% stake in the troubled retail business and installing mezzanine floors in larger Matalan stores, on which outlets could be operated.[17]

In June 2007, the company acquired Everlast for £84 million.

In July 2008, it was disclosed that Sports Direct also held a 12.3% holding in the John David Group, parent of JD Sports.[18] The stake is currently 11.9% of JD Sports as of November 2013. Sports Direct formerly held 5% of Amer Sports.[19] "[Ashley] likes to park his tanks on peoples' lawns," said a banker.[14]

It was announced on 1 October 2012, that Sports Direct had purchased rival retailer JJB's brand name, website, 20 stores and all of their stock in a deal for approximately £24m. The deal saved around 550 jobs.[20][21][22][23]

In February 2013, after fashion retailer Republic went into administration, Sports Direct bought 116 Republic stores, the brand name and the company's head office from the administrator for an undisclosed sum.[24]

In July 2013, more than 2,000 full-time staff were awarded around £70,000 each under the company's bonus share scheme.[25] It was also revealed that around 90% of the company's employees are employed on zero-hours contracts, an issue that some of their current and former employees have taken the company to court over.[26]

On 13 January 2014, Sports Direct bought 4.6% of Debenhams shares. The stock market purchase of 56.8 million shares (worth around £46m) was made without the prior knowledge of the Debenhams board. Sports Direct stated at the time it intends to be a supportive share holder. The Debenhams board responded by stating they are open-minded with regard to exploring operational opportunities to improve its performance.[27][28] Sports Direct sold its shares on 16 January 2014, although they took out an option to buy further shares up to a total of 6.6%.[29]

In October 2015, the chief executive of Sports Direct, David Forsey, was charged with a criminal offence for consultation failures over USC staff who only had 15 minutes notice of redundancy.[30][31]

In December 2015, an investigation by The Guardian found that the company fines staff for late clocking on, does not award overtime for late clocking off, relies on zero hour contracts, and regularly makes staff wait unpaid for a security check at the end of shifts. A union official suggested that these practices were illegal as they brought workers' earnings below the minimum wage. The company responded by saying there were unspecified inaccuracies in the reports.[32] Late December Sports Direct announced a 15 pence per hour increase for staff currently receiving less than minimum wage, taking them above minimum wage,[33] the annual cost of this was said in the announcement to be ~£10 Million (GBP), however it was immediately noted that £0.15p * 37.5 hours * 19,000 staff * 52 weeks = 5,557,500 (~£5.5 million), this and other factors resulted in many (Including Unite; Britain's biggest union) calling it a "PR Stunt",[34] workers on zero-hours contracts are not included in the rise and neither are those already paid more than minimum wage (management/supervisors etc.) therefore the 19,000 staff above is actually substantially less.[35]


A branch of Sports Direct in Bradford

The group has over 470 UK stores including the chains (Sports World prior to 2008), Lillywhites, Field & Trek and USC. The group employs around 11,000 people in the UK and at stores in Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Spain, Poland, Cyprus, Portugal and Iceland.

Sports Direct-branded stores exist under a franchising agreement in South Africa and the Middle East. In 2006 it overtook JJB Sports as the UK's largest sportswear retailer.[36]



Current brands[edit]

Previous brands[edit]

  • Bike Clearance
  • Gilesports - merged into
  • Hargreaves Sports - merged into
  • Original Shoe Company - sold to JJB Sports in December 2007.[38]
  • Republic - merged into USC
  • Streetwise Sports - merged into
  • Sports Soccer - merged into
  • Sports World - merged into
  • JJB Sports
  • Umbro - sold to Nike in 2007.

Clothing and equipment[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Preliminary Results 2014" (PDF). SportsDirect. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Finch, Julia (28 February 2007). "Flotation makes Sports Direct founder a billionaire". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2007. 
  3. ^ Millar, Michael (12 September 2013). "How Sports Direct beat the opposition". BBC News. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  4. ^ Titcomb, James (24 October 2013). "Ashley sells £106m in Sports Direct shares". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Sports Direct International | History
  6. ^ a b "Revealed UK's first sports kit billionaire". The Times. 9 April 2006. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  7. ^ Revealed: UK’s first sports kit billionaire The Times, 9 April 2006
  8. ^ Osborne, Alistair (5 February 2004). "Game, set and match for Dunlop Slazenger". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 September 2008. 
  9. ^ Osborne, Alistair (3 March 2004). "Ashley slips Karrimor brand in his rucksack". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  10. ^ "Sports World owner sees right fit for Kangol hats". The Times. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Kollewe, Julia (8 August 2005). "Sports World tycoon mulls bid for Umbro". The Independent (London). Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  12. ^ "Sports World tycoon mulls bid for Umbro". The Independent. 17 July 2005. Retrieved 7 November 2007. 
  13. ^ UK Retail News
  14. ^ a b "Personal finance - How to grow your wealth and spend less money - Telegraph". Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Sports Direct: timeline". The Guardian (London). 24 July 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2007. 
  16. ^ Davey, Jenny (10 December 2006). "Ashley empire may be worth 25bn". The Times. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  17. ^ Fletcher, Richard (21 May 2006). "Billionaire sports tycoon plots move into Matalan". The Times. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  18. ^ Annual Report 2008 Archived September 15, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Robinson, Gwen (24 January 2008). "Sports Direct’s Ashley rebuilds Amer stake". Financial Times. Retrieved 27 August 2008. 
  20. ^ "The JJB stores Sports Direct has bought". Daily Telegraph UK (London). 1 October 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  21. ^ Wood, Zoe (1 October 2012). "Sports Direct thrashes out deal to buy 60 JJB Sports stores". Guardian UK (London). Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  22. ^ "Sold JJB Sports stores inundated with shoppers". BBC News. 1 October 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  23. ^ Grierson, Jamie; Williams, Holly (1 October 2012). "2,200 jobs go in JJB Sports deal". The Independent (London). Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  24. ^ "Republic fashion chain bought by Sports Direct". BBC News. 28 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  25. ^ Neville, Simon (18 July 2013). "2,000 Sports Direct staff to receive £100,000 bonus after record profits". The Guardian (London). 
  26. ^ "Sports Direct 'faces 20,000 legal challenges'". This is Money. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  27. ^ "Sports Direct buys 4.6% Debenhams stake". BBC. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  28. ^ "Sports Direct nets 5% stake in Debenhams". Sky News. 13 January 2014. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  29. ^ "Sports Direct takes option on Debenhams stake". BBC News. 16 January 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  30. ^ Simon Goodley, Sarah Butler (9 October 2015). "Sports Direct chief executive charged over USC administration". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2015. 
  31. ^ Noel O'Reilly (21 October 2015). "Company directors face criminal charges over redundancies". Personnel Today. Retrieved 11 December 2015. 
  32. ^ "Revealed: how Sports Direct effectively pays below minimum wage". The Guardian. 9 December 2015. Retrieved 9 December 2015. 
  33. ^ Graham Ruddick. "Sports Direct's Mike Ashley promises £10m to pay staff above minimum wage". the Guardian. 
  34. ^ "Sports Direct accused of yet another ‘PR stunt’ to distract from ‘Victorian’ work practices". unitetheunion. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ Seawright, Stephen (6 April 2006). "Sports World International sales climb 45pc and knock JJB off top spot". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 September 2008. 
  37. ^ "Intellectual Property Office - search results". Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  38. ^ Hall, James; Fletcher, Richard (19 December 2007). "Ashley sells Original Shoe Company to JJB". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 10 February 2014. 

External links[edit]