Sports Direct bars media from annual investor meeting

FILE PHOTO: A worker walks up stairs before a Sports Direct general meeting to vote on the re-appointment of chairman Keith Hellawell in Shirebrook, January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British retailer Sports Direct SPD.L has barred media from attending its annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday where majority owner Mike Ashley faces shareholder opposition to his re-election as a director.

Company founder and chief executive Ashley, who also owns Premier League soccer club Newcastle United, owns 63% of the company.

The shares have fallen 27% over the last year with investors critical of Ashley’s constant dealmaking and the group’s corporate governance and employment practices.

Several shareholder advisory groups have urged investors to vote against Ashley’s re-election as a director at the AGM.

In April, Sports Direct failed to prevent department store chain Debenhams from falling into administration and saw its equity stake wiped out.

In July, the group warned it could face a 674 million euro bill from Belgium’s tax authority and said last year’s purchase of department store group House of Fraser out of administration may have been a mistake.

Sports Direct’s auditor Grant Thornton has also quit and the retailer is struggling to find a successor.

A spokesman declined to provide a reason for media being banned from the AGM this year.

Most British corporate annual general meetings are open to media. Members of the media were invited to the Sports Direct AGM last year.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Jason Neely and Edmund Blair