* Shareholder vote gives 60.4 pct backing to bonus scheme
* Scheme could pay out 200 mln stg if targets hit
* Previous schemes rejected by investors as too easy
(Recasts, adds further details)
By Paul Sandle
LONDON, July 2 Sports Direct's Mike
Ashley could be in line for a multi-million pound payout from
the retailer he founded after shareholders backed a
controversial bonus scheme at the fourth time of asking.
Ashley, who owns 58 percent of the firm, receives no salary
or other bonus and did not vote on the scheme himself.
On Wednesday, he was backed by 60.4 percent of the remaining
investors who did vote, overcoming the complaints of shareholder
groups and corporate lobbyists, one of which said it was
unthinkable that a major shareholder should receive a bonus,
even if he was an executive.
Previous attempts to reward Ashley, who also owns English
soccer club Newcastle United, have been quashed by shareholders
who said the targets were too easy.
In the 2015 bonus plan, which could pay out 200 million
pounds ($340 million) to an undisclosed number of employees
including Ashley, earnings would need to more than double over
the next five years.
Chairman Keith Hellawell said the company had listened to
investors, and its share scheme was one of the most wide
reaching and successful in Britain.
"Today's vote in favour of the resolution will ensure that
the group continues to retain and motivate its hard-working
employees," he said in a statement.
"The resolution today also recognises the substantial
contribution made by Mike Ashley over many years and, as
demonstrated by the previous schemes, has the potential to
create a further significant increase in shareholder value."
Shareholder and business lobby groups had called on
investors to oppose the scheme, saying it was structured just to
The controversy about the payment would have come as no
surprise to Ashley, who is deputy executive chairman of the
group he founded in 1982.
His relationship with investors has been fractious since the
group listed at 300 pence a share in 2007, only to issue what
was interpreted as a profit warning just eight weeks later.
It took five years for the shares to trade above the issue
price, but they have since performed strongly as the group has
grown to more than 400 shops in Britain and 260 stores in
Sales reached 2.19 billion pounds in its last financial
year, and core earnings rose 22 percent to 288 million pounds.
The shares were little changed at 722.5 pence at 1350 GMT.
($1 = 0.5877 British Pounds)
(Editing by Kate Holton and Mark Potter)