Sports Direct has mounted a fresh attack on Debenhams’ board with a bid to oust all remaining directors bar one and appoint Mike Ashley as an executive director.
The sportswear retailer has called for all current members of the Debenhams board to be removed except for chief financial officer Rachel Osborne, who joined the business in September.
Ashley has pledged that, if his bid to seize control at Debenhams were successful, he would step down from the helm of Sports Direct and hand over the reins to the retailer’s deputy chief financial officer Chris Wootton.
A statement from Sports Direct said that if Ashley’s bid to cull Debenhams existing board and appoint himself as an executive director were successful, he “would focus on the Debenhams business, including building a strong board and management team.”
The retailer added that Ashley has “every confidence that acting chief executive Mr Wootton and the other members of Sports Direct’s board and management team have the necessary expertise to continue to successfully run the Sports Direct business.”
Ashley’s latest attack on Debenhams board comes days after the department store retailer issued a profit warning due to business disruption caused by its ongoing funding discussions.
If successful, this would mark the second time this year that Ashley has triggered a board room exodus at Debenhams. In January, Sports Direct teamed up with fellow investor Landmark Group to vote the department store retailer’s chairman Ian Cheshire and chief executive Sergio Bucher off the board.
Sports Direct said that a fuller statement providing the reasoning behind its move to cull Debenhams’ board and appoint Ashley as an executive director would follow in due course.
Debenhams has confirmed Sports Direct’s request for a general meeting this morning.
The department store retailer said: “The board has been engaging with Sports Direct and our other stakeholders regarding options to restructure our balance sheet and is disappointed that Sports Direct has taken this action.
“In the meantime, discussions to address our future funding requirements are well advanced.”