Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley takes CEO role

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Britain’s Sports Direct (SPD.L), the retailer trying to mend its battered image, on Friday named its billionaire founder and controlling shareholder Mike Ashley as chief executive after Dave Forsey quit the role.

Forsey, who has been with the firm for 32 years, resigned as CEO on Thursday, it said.

Sports Direct has recently launched a review responding to heavy criticism from politicians after it effectively paid workers less than the minimum wage, and from shareholders and media for poor corporate governance.

The 450-store sportswear chain said that Forsey would be replaced by Ashley, who previously held the title of executive deputy chairman, with immediate effect.

“I feel like I have lost my right arm,” Ashley said of Forsey’s departure in a statement.

Sports Direct said Ashley will continue to be supported by the existing management team.

In addition, the firm said Karen Byers has been promoted to the role of global head of operations, and Sean Nevitt has been promoted to the role of global head of commercial, both with immediate effect.

Shares in Sports Direct, which have slumped 50 percent so far this year, closed Thursday at 287 pence, valuing the business at 1.7 billion pounds ($2.22 billion).

($1 = 0.7673 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey, editing by Sarah Young)

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