Blacks Leisure chairman David Bernstein bowed down to pressure from major shareholder Sports Direct and resigned last week.

The retailer said that despite receiving more than 78% of the proxy votes in favour of his reappointment at the AGM last month, Bernstein decided that “while this would normally be sufficient, the challenges faced by the business require a unified shareholder base supporting the strategy developed by the board”.

His exit came just days after Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley pressured him to step down.

Blacks’ nomination committee has started the process to identify and appoint a new chairman.

Bernstein joined the Blacks board in 1995 and was appointed chairman in 2001.

Blacks said: “During his time with the company, David has made a considerable contribution to the business and the board would like to take this opportunity to express their gratitude and to wish him well for the future.”

The spat between Ashley and Bernstein has prompted some speculation of a bid for Blacks by the Sports Direct tycoon