|Traded as||LSE: SPD|
Keith Hellawell (chairman)|
Mike Ashley (Founder and Chief Executive)
|Revenue||£2.832 billion (2015)|
|£295.6 million (2015)|
|Profit||£241.4 million (2015)|
Number of employees
Sports Direct International plc is a British retailing group. Established in 1982 by Mike Ashley, the company is the United Kingdom's largest sports-goods retailer and operates roughly 670 stores worldwide. The company owns a large number of sporting brands and trades predominantly under the SportsDirect.com brand. Other retailers owned by the company include USC and Lillywhites. The company operates under low margins.
Mike Ashley has continued to hold a majority stake in the business, and his holding has been 61.7 percent since October 2013. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and it is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
The company was founded by Mike Ashley in 1982 as a single store in Maidenhead trading under the name of Mike Ashley Sports. In 1984, Preston Sports shop was opened in London and by 1992 the Company had 12 stores. 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. The number of retail stores had now increased to 50, along with the acquisition of the Donnay tennis and golf brand. Ashley incorporated the business in 1999.
By 2000, the business had 80 stores, and had formed a joint venture in Belgium, with 22 stores trading as Disport. 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. In 2005 the company began a major rebrand of the stores, changing the fascias to Sports World.
In February 2004, the company acquired Dunlop Slazenger for around £40M, which included the Dunlop, Slazenger and Carlton brands. This was followed by the acquisitions of outdoor gear manufacturer Karrimor in March for a reported £5 million. In 2006 he acquired Kangol for an estimated £12 million. Most of these brands were bought from distressed sellers. After looking at a takeover, Sports Direct took a £9 million stake and signed a lucrative long-term deal in August 2005 with troubled brand Umbro, 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.
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, who valued the group at up to £2.5bn ahead of a possible flotation on the London Stock Exchange. The group debuted on the exchange on 27 February 2007.
Corporate finance and mergers
In December 2006, it was revealed that Sports Direct had built up a 29.4% stake in Blacks Leisure Group, the owner of Millets.
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 SportsDirect.com outlets could be operated.
In July 2008, it was disclosed that Sports Direct also held a 12.3% holding in the John David Group, parent of JD Sports. The stake is currently 11.9% of JD Sports as of November 2013. Sports Direct formerly held 5% of Amer Sports. "[Ashley] likes to park his tanks on peoples' lawns," said a banker.
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.
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.
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. 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%.
Employee conditions and legal breaches
In July 2013, it was 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.
From January 2013 to December 2014, 76 ambulances or paramedic cars were sent to the postcode for Sports Direct's distribution centre, according to a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.The ambulance service received three calls about women experiencing pregnancy difficulties, including one who gave birth in the site's toilets. A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary branded Sports Direct a 'sweatshop' with working conditions compared to the Victorian era and bosses were accused of punishing employees if they talk. Labour MP John Mann claimed English speakers were snubbed for positions with the chain despite 3,000 people working there. He said, 'British workers living in his constituency near Sports Direct's 800,000 square foot Shirebrook warehouse were snubbed for jobs at the Derbyshire site'. The warehouse is called the 'gulag' among local residents.
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.
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. A representative from the charity ShareAction claimed that workers are "jeopardising their health" for fear of being dismissed while another shareholder said the company's reputation as an employer was "atrocious".
Late in December 2015 Sports Direct announced a 15 pence per hour increase for staff currently receiving less than minimum wage, taking them above minimum wage, 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) calling it a "PR Stunt". 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 fewer.
The group has over 470 UK stores including the chains SportsDirect.com (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.
Retail outlet brands
- EAG. Austrian sports chain in which Sports Direct acquired a 51% stake for €40.5m (£34.6m) in May 2013.
- Field & Trek
- SportsDirect.com. High street and internet retailer created from the merger of Sports Soccer and Sports World, and progressively rebranded as SportsDirect.com since 2007 after the company's domain name. Sponsor of St James' Park, home of Championship soccer team Newcastle United, since 2009.
- Sportland International Group. Major Baltic sports retailer in which Sports Direct acquired a 60% stake in May 2013.
- European Golf
- Gilesports – merged into SportsDirect.com
- Hargreaves Sports – merged into SportsDirect.com
- JJB Sports
- Republic – merged into USC
- Sports Soccer – merged into SportsDirect.com
- Sports World – merged into SportsDirect.com
- Streetwise Sports – merged into SportsDirect.com
Clothing and equipment brands
- British Knights
- Hot Tuna Clothing
- LA Gear
- Miss Fiori
- No Fear (outside North America)
- USA Pro
- Voodoo Dolls
Previously owned brands
- Bike Clearance
- Original Shoe Company – sold to JJB Sports in December 2007.
- Umbro – sold to Nike in 2007
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