Pandemic pandemonium for Mike Ashley and Sports Direct –

Before his shops emerged from lockdown, Mike Ashley sent a video message to staff to thank them “for all the efforts during this unpleasant crisis”.

“A special shout-out to Shirebrook,” he added, “I’m telling you, you’ve done an absolutely amazing job.”

For some the gratitude may have rung hollow. Weeks later the Sports Direct billionaire was forced to defend working conditions at the giant warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, after managers were accused of preventing workers from leaving during unpaid breaks.

The controversy is just one episode in what has been a torrid period for the mercurial retailer, even by the chaotic standards of coronavirus and his own colourful past in business. Few fans were surprised on Thursday when his latest attempt to offload Newcastle United missed a transfer deadline as Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and its partners pulled out complaining of lengthy scrutiny. 

Ashley may hope the

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