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Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley snubs call to face MPs

Newspaper Clip ArtBusinessman refuses to appear before committee investigating pay and working conditions despite formal summons

Sports Direct's founder Mike Ashley has challenged the authority of a parliamentary select committee by refusing to appear before MPs investigating pay and working conditions at the retailer, despite being formally summoned.

The riposte, in which the billionaire called the parliamentarians "a joke", is the latest instalment in an increasingly bitter battle between Ashley and the Commons' business, innovation and skills (BIS) committee, which took the unusual step of issuing a summons to the Newcastle United owner last week.

The inquiry by the committee, which has threatened Ashley with being in contempt of parliament if he fails to attend a hearing on 7 June, follows a Guardian investigation last year that found workers at the sportswear group's Shirebrook warehouse were receiving, in effect, rates of pay below the minimum wage.

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Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley ordered to appear before MPs

Newspaper Clip ArtMPs have decided to issue a formal summons ordering Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley to give evidence to them about the treatment of his workers.

He previously declined an invitation to appear before the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee.

In a letter he accused MPs of "abusing Parliamentary procedure in order to create a media circus".

The committee has warned him that he could be in contempt of Parliament if he ignores the summons.

It will require Mr Ashley to give evidence at Westminster on 7 June.

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Mike Ashley warned he could be found in contempt of Parliament unless he appears before MPs

Newspaper Clip ArtNewcastle United owner Mike Ashley has been warned he will be found in contempt of Parliament if he does not appear before MPs to answer questions about the treatment of workers at his Sports Direct firm.

Mr Ashley was invited to appear before the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee at the end of last year after media reports about the way staff were treated at the Shirebrook headquarters of the group.

The businessman offered to meet MPs at Shirebrook, but this has been rejected on the basis that it is normal practice for committee meetings to happen in Parliament.

This is not the first time he has resisted calls to appear before MPs, having sent Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell to face a grilling by the Scottish affairs select committee last year.

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Sports Direct's legal action against Glasgow Rangers branded ridiculous by High Court judge

Newspaper Clip ArtSports Direct owned by Mike Ashley has halted legal fight against Glasgow Rangers after claiming breach of confidentiality

A High Court judge has described action brought against Rangers by a sportswear firm run by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley as "ridiculous".

Sports Direct has halted the litigation after claiming a breach of confidentiality in relation to a commercial deal.

Mr Justice Peter Smith approved the discontinuation of the claim at a High Court hearing in London on Wednesday.

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Mike Ashley summoned to Parliament: all you need to know

Newspaper Clip ArtThe Newcastle United owner has been told to appear before MPs to answer questions about Sports direct - what can he (and we) expect?

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is famously not a man who courts publicity. So rare are his public appearances that when he spoke to Sky TV before the club's final game of last season, the collective response was: "Oh, so that's what he sounds like."

Mr Ashley doesn't do interviews and he likes to get on with running his businesses out of the public eye.

But yesterday he received a letter which is likely to catapult him very much into the public eye at some point between now and the start of June, a polite but firm summons to appear before the House of Commons Business, Innovations and Skills Select Committee to answer questions from MPs about the running of his company, Sports Direct.

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Campaigners stage protests outside Sports Direct stores in Newcastle and Gateshead

Newspaper Clip ArtMembers of Unite gathered outside Sports Direct stores to urge owner Mike Ashley to put an end to 'Victorian' work practices

Campaigners staged protests outside three North East Sports Direct stores to urge Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley to end 'Victorian' work practices.

Around 30 members of Britain's largest union, Unite, braved the cold and gathered outside the sports retailer's branches in Northumberland Street, in Newcastle, the Metrocentre and Gateshead town centre today

The campaigners spent the morning handing out Valentine's cards calling on Ashley to 'have a heart' by putting staff on permanent contracts and 'paying the real living wage'.

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Newcastle United expansion 'could be shackled' by Strawberry Place student accommodation

Newspaper Clip ArtMagpies fans fear that planned student flats on land close to St James' Park in the city centre could prevent any future expansion of the stadium

Newcastle United's future development could be thwarted by student accommodation earmarked next to St James' Park, fans fear.

Toon fans worry that future expansion will be "shackled" by two student accommodation blocks planned opposite the stadium.

The application to build a nine-storey, 172-bed block and an 11-storey, 218-bed block on Strawberry Place has received a number of objections.

The proposal by Marrico Asset Management LLP also includes plans for a 10-storey office block and a 17-storey residential block on land between Strawberry Place and Gallowgate.

Steve Pharoah, lifelong Newcastle United fan and chartered town planner and urban designer, was one of those to raise concerns to Newcastle City Council about the proposal.

Mr Pharoah said: "St James' Park is constrained. Strawberry Place remains the last opportunity wherein Newcastle United Football Club may flex its muscles and expand further.

"In the face of growth by many other big clubs, these proposals will surely bind and gag the famous Geordie 'noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride' that is this city.

"I recall the immense frustration of thousands and thousands of people unable to experience first hand Keegan's wonderful Entertainers inside the stadium. "Success will return to St James' and with it once again cries to increase spectator capacity. Nowhere are we reassured that this proposal will not frustrate the essential and successful future growth of Newcastle United Football Club."

He added: "Cherished views of St James' Park would also be lost. The view of St James' Park is breathtaking - it makes you inhale then forget to exhale. "The proposed scale, massing and siting of buildings would destroy the experience of St James Park- like blackheads on a much-loved face."

Fellow Magpies fans raised concerns over any future expansion of St James' Park, referring to the 52,000-seater as an "iconic, cultural landmark" for the city.

Currently, the Gallowgate End is the only realistic stand that could be added to, as plans to develop the East Stand have previously been thwarted by the listed Leazes Terrace it overlooks.

Ex-chairman Freddy Shepherd admitted a previous attempt to develop the Gallowgate and expand it over the St James' Metro station, but plans were shelved due to spiralling costs.

Planning consultants Lambert Smith Hampton said that development had emerged from an extensive period of consultation with Newcastle City Council, the local community, local business owners and a wide range of other stakeholders.

Developers Marrico Asset Management LLP said that the proposal would create 1,000 new job opportunities and would bring much needed regeneration to the area.

In respect of the design of the development, Neil Taylor, from FaulknerBrowns Architects, said: "The scale of the proposed development relates well to the existing buildings in this part of the city.

"Great care has been taken to ensure that the proposed buildings do not compromise the significance of St James' Park on the city skyline.

"Views of the stadium will also be maintained in between the proposed buildings from locations closer to the site."

The application comes after planning chiefs approved another student block on the same street in September.

Permission was granted for the £30m block despite concerns that the development could "dwarf" the neighbouring Strawberry pub.

 
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