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Frasers Group confirms Mike Ashley to step down as CEO

By Huw Hughes

5 Aug 2021

People

Image: Mike Ashley, courtesy of Chris J Ratcliffe / AFP

Frasers Group has confirmed that Mike Ashley is to step down from the role of CEO of the company he founded almost 40 years ago.

He will be succeeded by Michael Murray, Frasers Group’s head of elevation and the fiance of Ashley’s daughter Anna. Murray is expected to take on the new position on May 1 2022.

Ashley will remain on the board as an executive director.

“The group's elevation strategy is transforming the business and receiving positive feedback from consumers and our brand partners, especially on projects such as the new Oxford Street Sports Direct which opened in June 2021,” Frasers Group said.

“The board consider it appropriate that Michael leads us forward on this increasingly successful elevation journey.”

The news of the CEO transition comes on the same day Frasers Group reported a drop in full-year revenue and pre-tax profit as store closures took their toll on the business.

End of an era

Ashley first began his fashion company, formerly known as Sports Direct, in 1982, and has since expanded it into a multi-billion-pound firm, snapping up other smaller businesses along the way, including Jack Wills, Flannels, House of Fraser and Evans Cycles.

Sports Direct rebranded to Frasers Group in 2019, a nod to Frasers, the upmarket offshoot of House of Fraser, and a reflection of the group’s elevation strategy, which Michael Murray has been spearheading.

Ashley has previously said he wants Frasers to become the “Harrods of the high street”, and as a key part of that strategy aims to build “stronger relationships with premium third-party brands”. Last year, the group bought shares in Mulberry and Hugo Boss.

Another key priority is opening elevated multi-brand stores, for example the three new regional flagship Flannels stores opening in 2021, including a seven-floor megastore in Liverpool.