Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell has narrowly survived an attempt to oust him. Mr Hellawell was re-elected to the post at the retailer’s annual general meeting, but he only won the backing of 53% of independent shareholders. Several prominent investors voted against him amid concerns about the way the business is run. Sports Direct has faced criticism for its treatment of workers and the influence of founder Mike Ashley. A significant proportion of independent shareholders, 47%, opposed Mr Hellawell’s re-election. Paul Lee, head of corporate governance at Aberdeen Standard, said Mr Hellawell had become “a lightning rod” for shareholders’ concerns about corporate governance. Aberdeen Standard and Royal London Asset Management were among the shareholders who voted against his re-election. Fund manager Hermes also recommended shareholders to make the protest vote. Two shareholder advisory groups, Pirc and the Institutional Shareholder Service, encouraged its members to do the same.
It is not the first time shareholders have signalled their concern. Mr Hellawell survived a revolt by independent shareholders in January. At the time almost 54% of independent shareholders voted against his re-appointment. However, the former chief constable of West Yorkshire was backed by Mr Ashley, who owns 61% of the business.