Sports Direct proposes 65 mln stg share bonus for founder Ashley

LONDON, March 11 Tue Mar 11, 2014 3:56am EDT

LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - Sports Direct on Tuesday outlined plans to hand its founder and deputy chairman Mike Ashley a share bonus worth around 65 million pounds ($108 million) in recognition of the company's rise to Britain's biggest sporting goods retailer.

Ashley, who holds a 62 percent stake in the company he founded in 1982, receives no salary or bonus from Sports Direct despite being the key figure in the company's success.

The firm said it would put proposals to shareholders at a meeting on April 4 to grant Ashley 8 million ordinary shares, worth almost 65 million pounds at Monday's closing share price of 809 pence.

The shares would vest in July 2018 if performance targets are met.

"The company has already received support from its largest institutional shareholder, Odey Asset Management, who has confirmed that it intends to vote in favour of the resolution," Sports Direct Chairman Keith Hellawell said.

"The board believes that Mike is one of the outstanding retailers of his generation and that all shareholders benefit from his on-going commitment to Sports Direct."

The share award is dependent upon the firm achieving full-year core earnings of 330 million pounds in 2014 and 410 million pounds in 2015, as well as a net debt/EBITDA ratio of 1.5 times or less at the end of its 2015 fiscal year.

The proposal is the third attempt by Sports Direct's board to reward its founder. One previous proposal was knocked back by shareholders due to concerns over the related performance targets, and another failed to be put to a vote.

The group, which has over 600 sports stores in Europe, including 400 in the UK, grew rapidly during the economic downturn on demand for its value offers, supported by a mixture of acquisitions, expanding online sales and the demise of rivals like JJB Sports.

The firm's shares, up 88 percent on a year ago, entered Britain's blue-chip FTSE 100 index in September.

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