Billionaire Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has called for the resignation of Blacks chairman David Bernstein.
Sports Direct is the biggest shareholder in Blacks, with a 21% stake, and last week the retailer voted against 10 out of 13 resolutions at Blacks’ annual meeting. They included the reappointment of Bernstein.
Ashley may now call for an extraordinary general meeting to oust Bernstein, according to The Sunday Times.
After the vote, Sports Direct finance director Bob Mellors requested a meeting with Ashley and Bernstein. However, Bernstein pulled out of the meeting after Ashley refused to provide an agenda to Blacks’ lawyers in advance.
Blacks Leisure said: “David was prepared to meet them but he wanted some clarity given Sports Direct’s aggressive and bullying tactics in the past. David is very happy to meet them as long as that information is provided.”
A source close to Sports Direct told the paper: “We are astonished that Bernstein is still in the job. He’s been non-executive chairman since 2001. We wanted to talk about why we voted against his reappointment at Wednesday’s meeting. We want him out.”
Ashley invested in Blacks in 2007 and Blacks’ shares have lost 97% of their value since then. Ashley has lost £50m on his stake but he bought another 7% of the business last week. This led to some suggestion he is gearing up for a bid. He has made two unsuccessful bids to buy the business in the past.
Blacks chief executive Neil Gillis stepped down on Friday and Julia Reynolds replaced him today (August 1).
Alongside dealing with Ashley, she will have to address Blacks’ funding issues.