With the news that Mike Ashley’s downmarket sports chain, Sports Direct, is about to be included in the reshuffled FTSE 100 Index of the top 100 UK companies, I took a peek at their latest figures, as I do from time to time.
As has been the norm with Sports Direct for quite some time now, the figures were obscene, with profits rising a whopping 23.2% to £260.1 million.
What caught my eye however was the current Sports Direct share price standing at well over £7 and rising three or four times just as I was reading it over the share ticker. This means that Ashley’s current 64% holding in Sports Direct International is now worth over £2.75 billion, and this is after Ashley cashed in some 4% of his shares for over £100 million back in February.
To put this in perspective in terms of Newcastle United and it’s importance in the scheme of things to Ashley, that is well over 10 times the value of what Ashley has invested in the club, around £262 million. This includes a debt of around £129 million to Ashley, most of which is repayable on demand with the rest secured on future broadcasting revenue.
This now means that if you put together Ashley’s stake in Sports Direct together with his stake in Newcastle United, they are now just over £3 billion, and this isn’t counting assets held by Ashley outside those two companies.
This makes Ashley the fourth richest owner in the Premier League behind Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Manchester City (around £20 billion), Arsenal’s part owner Alisher Usmanov (around £12.4 billion) and finally, Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich (around £10.3 billion).
The closest to Ashley is Southampton’s owner the Liebherr Trust, which is basically Katharina Liebherr, the daughter of Swiss crane king Markus Liebherr, who was estimated to be worth around £3 billion when he died in August 2010.
However, one problem for Ashley and SDI is that the company are now well and truly in the spotlight in the furore over the low wage ‘Zero Hour’ contracts around 90% of Sports Direct workers have to endure, where they can receive a relative pittance after a good week, and absolutely nothing after a poor one, a practice which often drives employees into the grasp of loan sharks such as Newcastle United’s current partners, Wonga. An ex Sports Direct employee, Zahera Gabriel-Abraham, is taking legal action against Sports Direct, which might force the company to bring it’s employment practices more into line with those of less evil companies and hence affect it’s bottom line significantly.