The Daily Telegraph

Ashley steps down from Frasers retail empire to join the jet set

- By Laura Onita

BILLIONAIR­E Mike Ashley has stood down from the board of his retail empire to spend more time travelling, leaving his son-in-law in charge of Frasers.

Mr Ashley, who passed the baton to Michael Murray a year ago, will relinquish his role as a director of the Sports Direct owner next month after the annual meeting with investors.

The sportswear tycoon, who set up the company as Sports Direct 40 years ago, will continue to advise the retailer and its senior management “when called upon” but has increasing­ly taken a back seat.

He owns just under 70pc of the business through Mash Holdings, his invest- ment vehicle, and he will stump up £100m of additional funding to show his “continuing strong support”.

His decision sent the shares down 1.2pc to close at 777p yesterday, valuing the company at £3.7bn.

The 58-year-old handed the reins to Mr Murray, the chief executive, after stepping back into an executive director role in August last year.

Mr Murray, who has been in charge of Frasers’ so-called elevation strategy, recently said his father-in-law was now spending three to six months a year outside the UK and “never really wanted to be chief executive”. Mr Ashley was executive deputy chairman of

Sports Direct until 2016, when Dave Forsey, the long-serving chief executive, resigned and he took the role.

He said: “Since Michael Murray took over the leadership of Frasers, the business has gone from strength to strength. It is clear that the group has the right leadership and strategy in place and I feel very confident passing the baton to Michael and his team.

“Although I am stepping down from the board, I remain 100pc committed to supporting Frasers and Michael’s plans, and I look forward to helping the team as and when they require me.”

Mr Murray has signalled a determinat­ion to continue to build bridges with investors and avoid the adversaria­l approach of his father-in-law, some analysts have said.

He has been seeking to move away from the cheap image the company acquired through the dominance of Sports Direct, instead working closely with major luxury fashion brands.

He added: “Mike has built an incredible business over the past 40 years and, on behalf of the board and the group, I want to thank him for all he has done.

“With our new strategy and leadership team, we are driving this business forward at pace and we are all excited for the future.”

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