The Story of Mike Ashley

The Story of Mike Ashley


As you may have already gleaned from the “Meet
the Owners” series, the people who buy and run football clubs are far from a popular
crowd, their ranks filed with oligarchs, dictators, criminals and rapacious billionaires. But
there is perhaps one person amongst this ethically compromised cabal who provokes the ire of
fans, the press, politicians and other businesspeople like no other. And that is Newcastle United’s English owner
Mike Ashley, who also owns a significant stake in Glasgow Rangers. Ashley, it is fair to say, is something of
a walking contradiction. A self-made member of the billionaires club who is now worth
– according to Forbes – £2.73 billion and sits in 629th place on their 2018 billionaires
list. A devout Newcastle Fan despite being born
and raised in Buckinghamshire, Ashley often cuts a disheveled figure, turning up for meetings
carrying his mobile phone in a plastic bag after commuting to the office from his 33
room mansion in North London by helicopter. A ruthless businessman who built Sports Direct,
a billion pound sportswear retail business, from a single store and which is now the biggest
single employer of zero-hours contracts in the UK. And yet Ashley maintains an everyman
persona that has seen him boast that he can down a beer in ten seconds, including once
at a Newcastle home game, and who, allegedly, once vomited in a pub’s fireplace after necking
12 pints during a typically raucous business meeting. Ashley’s story begins in the modest, middle
class village of Burnham, Buckinghamshire, in the south east of England. He wasn’t an
exceptional student and gained a single O-Level, a C in economics, before leaving school at
16 with dreams of becoming a professional squash player. An injury ended that path and
it was whilst working as a squash instructor that he happened upon the idea of opening
up his own sports shop, Mike Ashley Sports, with a £10,000 loan from his father, who
had mortgaged the family bungalow. From there he went on to acquire over 100
stories, rebranded as Sports Soccer, as well as a string of brands like Donnay, Dunlop-Slazenger
(which he later sold) and Lonsdale, allowing Ashley to operate a “pile ’em high, sell
them cheap” model. In 2007 Ashley went public and issued an IPO that netted him close to
a £1billion personal profit. He retains a 60% stake in the company, that continues to
acquire stakes in distressed retailers. House of Fraser became Ashley’s latest acquisition.
Today he owns more than 400 stores, dozens of brands and retailers and the share price
is hovering around 400p. In its last results Sports Direct still made a £78 million profit
even after having to take a huge hit on its failed investment in Debenhams. Even though Ashley’s bacchanalian exploits
– like gambling and heavy boozing – have given him a well known public persona, he
is not someone who is comfortable in the public eye. He rarely gives interviews and is known
to detest public speaking. So much so that he risked jail by refusing to appear before
a parliamentary committee. Sports Direct employs close to 20,000 people and is the biggest
user of so-called ‘zero hours’ contracts, a flexible way of employing staff that gives
no actual obligation to offer any work. The contacts have been blamed for deepening poverty
and raising uncertainty for millions of low-paid service sector workers. “Zero-hours contracts
create a throwaway workforce. They form a one-way street, whereby employers bear no
risk, avoiding sickness and holiday pay and overtime,” wrote Len McCluskey, the general
secretary of Britain’s Unite union. At the time over 80 per cent of the Mike Ashley’s
workforce was on zero-hours contracts and a 2015 investigation by the Guardian revealed
the terrible conditions in some of Sports Direct’s warehouses, including the under
payment of the minimum wage. A subsequent BBC investigation found that workers were
subjected to a “six strikes” disciplinary regime, where six so called “offences”
would lead to dismissal. Those including talking too much, taking too much sick leave, taking
long toilet breaks and using a mobile phone at work. This created such a culture of fear
that employees would take huge risks to avoid getting fired. One heavily pregnant women
was reportedly so scared of losing her job she ended up giving birth in the warehouse
toilets rather than call in sick. (Sports Direct complained to the BBC about the report,
but the complaint was was rejected by the BBC Trust). A recalcitrant Ashley was eventually dragged
before a Parliamentary Select Committee to answer questions about his business. Ashley
gave a punchy if flustered performance but agreed to pay back over £1 million in lost
pay, while his company faced a £2 million pound fine for the breach. “In light of
the appalling practices at Sports Direct, it is only right that the Government imposes
fines to send a clear signal to other rogue employers,” said the Labour Party’s deputy
leader Tom Watson. Ashley promised to give guaranteed hours to
all retail staff (but not warehouse staff). However, little has changed. Last year Labour
Leader Jeremy Corbyn used Prime Minister’s questions to urge Teresa May to condemn Ashley
and Sports Direct after reports that zero hours contracts were still widely used. “A year on, they’re still exploiting insecure
workers with zero hours contracts. Will the Prime Minister join me in now demanding that
Mr Ashley honours his words and ends zero hours contracts in all his companies?” The Prime Minister declined to condemn Ashley. But Ashley is perhaps best known for his acquisition
of Newcastle United for £134million in 2007, a purchase he appears to have regretted from
the moment he bought the club. Whilst some fans welcomed the move, he had soon turned
the club’s fanbase against him for his perceived thriftiness and a string of moves that appeared
to evaporate whatever good will was left. These included firing club legend Kevin Keegan
(and later having to pay £2million pounds after Keegan successfully sued for constructive
dismissal after he refused to sign Ignacio Gonzalez, who had been scouted by former director
Denis Wise via YouTube); the brief renaming the St James’ Park Stadium as the Sports Direct
Arena and signing Wonga – a pay day loan company with an appalling reputation for exploiting
the poor and offering loans to often desperate people at an effective interest rate of 1500%
– as a shirt sponsor. Worse, many fans accused Ashley of being a
Tottenham Hotspur fan, but subsequent interviews with childhood friends from back in Buckinghamshire
seem to suggest he was, indeed, a lifelong Toon fan. Still, Ashley was talking about
selling Newcastle a year after buying the club, as was seen seen hawking the club around
potential Middle Eastern buyers in Dubai for a reported £481million. But that came to
nothing and the club relegated to the championship following a disastrous 2008-2009 season. Newcastle
bounced straight back before another relegation in 2016, and immediate return to the Premier
League with Rafa Benitez as coach. Ashley has made no bones about his desire
to sell the club. In a rare interview with Sky Sports he claimed there was no way he
could compete with the new breed of owners like Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City. “I’ve put my £250million into the football
club. There’s no more from me. Now the club has to generate its own money. If someone
said to me I am wealthy – OK, in theory I am a billionaire, even maybe a multi-billionaire
– but in reality my wealth is all in Sports Direct shares … I don’t have that cash
in the bank, so I don’t have that ability to write a cheque for £200m. I don’t have
it, it’s very simple, it’s not there.” And, in a way, that is what has happened.
According the football finance blogger the Swiss Ramble, Newcastle United made six successive
seasons of profit in between relegations, amassing some £100 million. In total, up
to the last released figures, Ashley has made a total profit of £4million since taking
over in 2007. He has, at the very least, made Newcastle United financially stable. But for the fans, that’s not enough. Like
Stan Kroenke at Arsenal, the perception amongst Newcastle Supporters is that Ashley appears
happy for Newcastle United to tread water, avoid relegation and rake in the Premier League’s
booming TV income to keep the club solvent. But his time at the club may be coming to
an end. Last October he announced again that the club was for sale and he entered into
negotiations with Amanda Staveley, a British deal maker based in Dubai who played a key
role in securing Manchester City for Sheikh Mansour from the former Thai prime minister
Thaksin Shinawatra. Shinawatra has claimed that a deal was close between Liverpool and
Sheikh Mansour but that he persuaded a female broker (thought to be Staveley) to push for
the much cheaper Manchester City deal instead. She was also instrumental in Sheikh Mansour’s
£3.5 billion investment in a Barclays Bank that was reeling from the 2008 financial crisis.
Mansour made a huge profit, as did Staveley, although her company PCP is suing Barclays
for money she believes she is still owned from Barclays for that deal. According to Staveley a £250 million deal
is on the table, something Ashley (who is looking for £350 million) has denied. But
there are question marks as to where that money has come from and who the investors
behind Staveley actually are. The saga continues but an eventual sale to
Staveley may also be a leap in the dark. Sometimes it’s better the devil you know.

100 Replies to “The Story of Mike Ashley”

  1. There is a mistake in the voice-over of this video. It should state "Ashley owned a significant stake of Rangers". It currently says "owns". Ashley sold his stake in 2017. Apologies for any confusion.

  2. Guys you should do a video on Red Bull company acquiring football teams and trying to rename them…RB Leipzig & Salzburg being the most interesting.

  3. I'm amazed Ashley is still alive. He's ruining a good club with very loyal supporters. They should stop going to NUFC games. Hit him where it hurts, in his pocket. He'll sell when he starts losing millions.

  4. You listed treading water and avoiding relegation as his priorities but he consistently refuses to invest enough to allow for any kind of confidence that we can avoid relegation. He's taken us down twice and at the time of writing we are heading for a third demotion under his ownership. So as well as being one of the worst people in the country he's also incompetent.

  5. Can you imagine what footie would be like if Ryanair's Michael O'Leary ran a football club. He, Ashley and Philip Green are scum but the good news is that they have no real friends, just hangers on.

  6. As an Arsenal fan, I can feel Newcastle`s fans pain… Mike Ashley is just a businessman, he has no passion whatsoever for football. At least Newcastle may get rid of him soon. Kroenke looks like he`s gonna own Arsenal for his whole life 🙁

  7. That's how business works; you love looking to drag the riches down. Maybe you should try and form a business. He is following the law. Always looking for conspiracy.

  8. Don't forget his son's 'urban' online radio station Radar Radio that was suspended due to accusations of sexual harassment, tokenism and, you guessed it, underpaying staff.

  9. It's a couple of blokes like this that make millions of peoples lives tougher. Just for an totally absurd net worth I guess. Total scum.

  10. After learning about Newcastle in the last couple months I've learned how much hate is there for Mike Ashley. And I thought Mark Davis of the NFL Team Oakland Raiders (Soon to be Las Vegas) was bad.

  11. To anyone who's not British and thinks this zero hour contract sounds bad, we also have a large number of workers with similar contracts working in our hospital for the National Health Service. So the government making a fuss over Mike Ashley is pretty hypocritical as it happens in the hospitals they oversee.

  12. Not sure if it was the intention, but this piece made think of Mike Ashley in a more positive light as Newcastle owner… That's mental x

  13. Can’t these successful businessmen be ethical? Why do they have to get rich by exploitation?

    Capitalism is cancer.

  14. If he got mojority shares not cash at this point in time I wonder if he survive the next financial crisis l. He promose taxing more on online sales to try save the high street but that isnt going to happen

  15. Why would anyone be an owner? People don't seem to appreciate the fact that it's just a business and it's the owner's own money being spent. I appreciate that supporters want a Shaykh Mansour at every club and all you care about is winning, but in the real world money has to be accounted for and made. And business ventures need to be profitable to succeed.

    I'm also not of the opinion that Wonga is evil. People should pay the consequences for their daft decisions. You see it on social media brazenly tagging their mates into posts regarding Wonga "hehe remember the Wonga night out John doe, hehe". The interest rate is clear as day, you can't make any profit loaning £100 and having that paid back in £8 installments over a year (rounding down before some smart Alec gets facetious).

  16. Everyone who disapproves of him is left wing, tho, and the far left at that, McCluskey, Corbyn, Watson. While what Ashley is doing is genuinely immoral, it's not shining the opposition in the best light that they're far left ideologues with no idea about human nature or how the world actually is who disapprove of capitalism even when it's good, when they could be people who don't hate capitalism who have a real moral problem with it. I've worked low paid labour, and at Greene King, who charge tons per meal and give the worst service going, I was treated like sh*t. At Burger King, it was fine. Low paid but fine. But even that was 0 hours technically as the manager set them. There's always people coming into the store and so there's always work. I see no problem in them. If he's not meeting minimum wage he's breaking the law and there are some harsh criteria for his employees that for low paid work I just wouldn't follow but 0 hour contracts are not necessarily immoral and being tight with money especially at Newcastle United is what makes him a successful businessman.

  17. So basically that woman and Asian man stopped man city from being a relegation team and Liverpool having KDB and anyone they want🙃 ….. then again we are getting players we want 😂

  18. He is not a devout Newcastle fan. I hope he dies sooner rather than later though. Of something really brutal.

  19. Got to admire the bloke he's a self made billionaire well done to him I say. And that's from a Newcastle fan

  20. Mike Ashley: "there's no way I can compete with the new breed of owners like Sheik Mansour".
    Tottenham: 4 consecutive top 4 finishes and CL finalists.

  21. So the owner is a professional piece of shit who has found a way to monetize anti social behavior. Knowing that there is no surprise that he has run the club like his business and done the minimum to gain massive profit.

  22. I wish the FA, UEFA or hell even FIFA come down hard on these vermin owners and stop them from exploiting clubs not just here but across the sport.

  23. He hasn’t made the club finincially stable, that is, and always has been a myth, what he has done is shift newcastle’s Debt, and strip any assets that he could. The millions of pounds of debt Newcastle owed is now owed to Mike Ashley. None of the debt has been payed, nor will be payed till he leaves the club.

  24. A BILLIONAIRE, yet NOBODY likes you! That's the defination in the dictionary when you look up the name 'MIKE ASHLEY'! (well after the defination of FAT USELESS C**T!!!!!!

  25. You know this video is a load of sh*te as soon as he says "devout Newcastle fan"….SINCE WHEN? The FCB supports Tottenham and there's nothing devout about a man who only started watching football in 1986 when he was 22!!! Utter drivel.

  26. In short a cluster of Oxygen thieves… Profiting from The people who have nothing else. And Revere Their club beyond anything else… Fucking Vermin… Eat shit and Die…

  27. 0 hour contracts aren't always a bad thing. It can give people flexibility in their life so they are not tied down to be at a job all the time. I done 0 hour for a few years so I could have free time to do what I wanted when I wanted. Having the option of it can be a good thing.

  28. All of it in addition to what has transpired at Newcastle since the making of this video suggests a reprehensible human being and a dreadful club owner whose interests lie solely in maximizing profits and using the club as a means to generate revenue and promote personal interest at the expense of competitiveness. I can only imagine what the fans of the club have gone through during his tenure.

  29. Shows the level of the guy, if he was actually a boyhood fan of the club despite not being local… he is a billionaire, If I were a billionaire and I owned Liverpool id do all I could to make sure it was a winning club including shedding tons of my fortune into it.

  30. Ashley no longer owns his Rangers shares, and he's not a Newcastle fan. Where did you get this rubbish from?

  31. Zero hours contracts are a very flexible way of working. This lefty bullshit is just that – bullshit! Don’t like it? Lump it or find another job!

  32. Ashley: saves Newcastle from oblivion.
    Newcastle fans: spend our way into administration or get out.

    Here, have double Vs from me you bloody Neanderthals.

  33. You let your videos down by dropping in leftist drivel comments about zero hours contacts, its not relevant or has any purpose, its just your ideology that this must be bad. Most people who work there are part time student types, that's why they have them, to think that a union boss and Labour politician quote and the business and economic illiterate Guardian was a source of acceptable balanced answer, speaks volumes lol. Other comments like 'ruthless' rather than 'clever' in his ability to size a huge dominant share of the market, leading to his success would be other examples of where you simply make up your own bias.

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