Sports Direct shareholders will next month vote over a £11m payment to John Ashley, the brother of the company's founder Mike Ashley.

Along with the board of the FTSE 250-listed retailer, the pugnacious tycoon will abstain from the vote, which will take place on 13 December, the company said on Friday (24 November). However, both Ashley and the company's executives are understood to be in favour of the motion.

"I intend to voluntarily abstain from the vote on whether or not John should receive the money that he would otherwise have earned at Sports Direct if he were not my brother," the Sports Direct founder said.

"I fully expect that independent shareholders will vote against this proposal due to the passage of time involved, although in my opinion, technically the money is owed and therefore should be paid."

The development comes after an in-house probe found that John Ashley, the elder brother of the billionaire tycoon, was underpaid by Sports Direct "because of concerns at the time about public relations".

The investigation, led by Sports Direct's legal advisors RPC and independent accountants Smith & Williamson, was aimed at investigating the "total amounts paid in money and in kind to John Ashley, which had been called into question given his position as brother of Mike Ashley".

The probe found the Newcastle United boss' elder brother was owed money in bonuses and performance-related share awards.

Ashley left his role as the company's IT boss two years ago to move to a company that had a contract with his brother's business, which in turn led to further criticism over the company's corporate governance standards.

In September this year, Keith Hellawell, Sports Direct's embattled chairman, narrowly survived a revolt from independent shareholders at the company's annual general meeting.

Hellawell, who had only held on to his job at the shareholders meeting in 2016 thanks to the backing he received from Ashley, had attracted criticism over his role in the recent mismanagement failures that have hit the retailer over the last 18 months.

In January, some 54% of shareholders voted against Hellawell, the same percentage who expressed a similar opinion back in September 2016 – but the weight of Ashley's backing proved crucial, as the Newcastle United owner controls 55% of the Derbyshire-based company.