Sports Direct chairman survives tense vote

Sports Direct’s under-fire chairman Keith Hellawell survived a tense shareholder vote today after narrowly clinching support for his re-election from the majority of independent shareholders.
Mr Hellawell, who has been with the retailer since 2009, had promised to step down if minority shareholders rebelled against him, as they had done the year before.
The Sports Direct chairman told a sparsely attended meeting in Shirebrook that one of the biggest challenges the business had faced in the past year “has been recognising the things that were wrong within the company and the things that we have to put right”.
However, despite heightened speculation that he would have to fall on his sword, polling results revealed that 53.3pc of independent shareholders voted to re-elect the former police chief and drugs tsar, while 46.7pc voted against him.
“With Keith Hellawell surviving his second shareholder revolt in a year by the skin of his teeth, we believe that the board should urgently address the long list of governance concerns that have been raised by independent shareholders to help restore confidence in the board,” said Ashley Hamilton Claxton, corporate governance manager of Royal London Asset Management.
Sports Direct chairman survives tense vote

Keith Hellawell survived the shareholder vote
Sports Direct founder and boss Mike Ashley used his 62pc stake to support the embattled chairman, taking Mr Hellawell’s level of support to 87.6pc.
The sportswear tycoon previously used his tight grip on shares to save him from defeat in an earlier vote this year. Paul Lee, head of corporate governance at Aberdeen Standard Life, said that the result was “far from a ringing endorsement from minorities.”
Independent shareholders also voted to support long-serving senior independent director Simon Bentley. A string of independent shareholders including Aberdeen Standard Investments, Royal London, Hermes, Fidelity and Legal & General voted against Mr Hellawell while shareholder advisory groups Glass Lewis, Pirc and ISS recommended investors revolt against him after presiding over a long history of corporate governance breaches.
Mr Lee said following the meeting: “The company hasn't made good on its previous promises and we do not yet have confidence that the chair and board are holding the chief executive to account in the way they should.”
However, the power of minority investors was weakened after Standard Life sold down its 10pc stake earlier this year, understandly in frustration about a lack of progress being made by the company to address its concerns, Mr Hellawell also had the support of Phoenix Asset Management, which holds 8pc in Sports Direct.
Mr Hellawell staunchly refused to answer any questions about his future at the company before or after escaping defeat.
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