Mike Ashley: Newscastle owner
Mike Ashley: Newscastle owner reuters

After repeatedly fighting to be granted a controversial £180m bonus plan, Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has now decided he doesn't want to be awarded any shares after all.

Ashley made the spectacular U-turn following discussions with the retailer's remuneration committee, which added that he "does not expect any other share based incentive scheme to be proposed to shareholders in relation to his role".

Ashley, who is deputy executive chairman of Sports Direct, does not draw a salary. Back in April he cashed in 7% of his shares, worth over £220m.

The scheme, which was passed by 60% versus 40% of the voting at a recent Sports Direct shareholders meeting, would have seen some 25 million shares issued to Ashley, Sports Direct executives, as well as about 3,000 staff.

This was the third time in two years Ashley had attempted to push through the payout plan. It was unclear what proportion of shares would be allocated to whom.

The company was at pains to point out that Ashley's volte-face will not prevent a windfall to Sports Direct employees, however.

Keith Hellawell, non-executive chairman of Sports Direct, said: "Regarding the allocation of shares, Mike's focus is on ensuring that the scheme aligns all employees to achieve the company's objectives.

"Following recent unhelpful speculation surrounding his potential allocation, he is determined to ensure that there is the maximum number of shares available for the eligible employees."