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Under-fire Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell to step down

Sports Direct’s chairman, Keith Hellawell, will step down after nearly a decade in the role following pressure from a major shareholder advisory group.

Hellawell will not stand for re-election at the annual shareholder meeting in London on Wednesday. He will be replaced by the former Nike executive David Daly.

Simon Bentley, a senior independent director who has been on Sports Direct’s board since 2007, is also leaving after the annual meeting.

Last month Glass Lewis, the investor advisory group, accused the board of “poor governance” and urged investors to vote against the re-election of Hellawell, chairman since November 2009, Bentley and Sports Direct’s billionaire founder and chief executive, Mike Ashley.

Hellawell narrowly survived a shareholder rebellion over his role at the retailer a year ago, when just over 53% of independent investors backed his re-election.

At last year’s meeting, he defended Sports Direct’s use of zero-hours contracts and said there was no need for an independent review of its working practices.

Sports Direct has come under fire for its treatment of workers and corporate governance standards after the Guardian exposed how temporary staff at its depots were in effect being paid below the minimum wage.

Daly, who joined the retailer’s board as a non-executive director in October, will take on the role at the end of Wednesday’s meeting.

He worked for Nike for nearly 30 years in sales, marketing and product development roles, with a focus on football. He is also a non-executive director at Fulham FC.

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Nicola Frampton, a senior executive at the bookmaker William Hill, is to the join the board as a non-executive director from 1 October, while Cally Price has been elected by the workforce as workers’ representative to the board from May.

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Ashley said: “I would like to thank Keith and Simon for their valuable service and significant contributions to the company over the years.”

Hellawell said: “Having overseen significant improvements in the working practices and corporate governance of the company, which includes a refresh of the board, now is the right time for me to step aside. I have every confidence that the group will continue to go from strength to strength.”

Daly will also chair the company’s nomination committee.


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