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By
Reuters
Published
Mar 6, 2015
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Sports Direct's Ashley eludes British lawmakers

By
Reuters
Published
Mar 6, 2015

LONDON, United Kingdom - A British parliamentary committee wanting to question retailer Sports Direct's founder Mike Ashley over the treatment of workers at its fashion chain USC has been told he is unavailable, but said they have not given up yet.

The Scottish Affairs Committee said late on Thursday that it had agreed with Sports Direct to hear evidence from its chairman Keith Hellawell on March 25 but still wanted to question Ashley too and had asked for a detailed explanation of why he would be unavailable throughout March.

Sports Direct


"The Scottish Affairs Committee still wants to meet with Mike Ashley," Ian Davidson MP, the committee's chairman, said.

Ashley, the retailer's founder, majority shareholder and driving force, is often in the media spotlight for his acquisitive approach to growing Sports Direct and for his ownership of English soccer club Newcastle United but remains fiercely private and has not given an interview since 2007.

Sports Direct, which operates over 420 UK sports stores and 270 more across Europe, as well as its fashion and brands arms, said that Hellawell was best placed to deal with questions from the Committee, which wants to hear evidence before the dissolution of Parliament on March 31.

The lawmakers called upon Ashley and fellow management last month to explain its handling of workers at USC's Scottish warehouse, who were made redundant in January when administrators were called into a Sports Direct-controlled business that owned 28 USC stores.

The stores were quickly bought out of administration by another Sports Direct fashion unit, Republic, and continue to trade but workers at the Ayrshire warehouse who lost their jobs have said they were not properly consulted beforehand.

The committee also want to hear about the use by the company of zero-hour contracts, which offer no guaranteed work or pay.

Hellawell, who has been offered the option of bringing additional Sports Direct management with him to the hearing in Westminster, will appear together with Philip Duffy, of Duff and Phelps, the administrator for the USC business.

Select committees have little power but they are taking an increasingly high profile role in British life due to their ability to call public figures for televised questioning.

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