Michael Ashley launched his first shop in 1982 in Maidenhead, an affluent town in Berkshire. He was then only eighteen years old. He named it Mike Ashley Sports and traded under low margin.
By 1984, Michael had earned enough profit to enable him to expand. He then opened Preston Sports Store in London by using private money. It was also a successful venture and earned him good margin.
Buoyed by its success, he opened several other stores in and around London. By 1992, the company had twelve stores, each of which was funded by private money. The chain was named Sports and Ski.
Between 1995 and 1996, Mike renamed the chain as Sports Soccer. By the end of 1990s, the brand had around fifty stores across the country. He also acquired a property measuring around 100,000 sq feet in Dunstable, a market town in Bedfordshire. The company head office was relocated to this newly acquired property.
Initially, the company was a proprietorship firm owned and run solely by Ashley. He was so far in control of every aspect of its running. In 1999, he turned it into a limited liability company, but continued to be at the helm of the business. He also rebranded his company as Sports Direct International plc
From 2000 onwards, the company experienced a steady growth. In the same year, the company formed a joint venture in Belgium. It now had around 80 stores.
In 2002, he acquired ten stores of Lillywhites Chain and also the Lonsdale brand. By 2003, the company had 150 retail stores under its chain. It also acquired Donnay.
In February 2004, Michael Ashley acquired Dunlop Slazenger, a sports equipment manufacturing company, for a price of £40 million. Thus he came to own Dunlop, Slazenger and Carlton brands. In the same year he took over Karrimor, an outdoor gear manufacturer, for a sum of five million ponds.
In 2005, Michael Ashley signed a long-term deal Umbro— an English sportswear and football equipment supplier; however, it did not materialize. Instead, he acquired Kangol, the company famous for its headgears, in 2006 at an estimated price of £12 million.
Continue Reading Below
Sports Direct International plc went public in 2007. Such was Michael’s reputation that he quickly garnered $ 1.8 billion through Initial Public Offering. In the same year, the company also opened an online store with the domain name of SportsDirect.com. There has been no looking back since then.
In the same year, Sport Direct, under the leadership of Michael Ashley, acquired Everlast for £84 million. In 2008, it also acquired 12.3% holding in the John David Group in 2008.
In 2012, the company purchased out rival retailer JJB's brand name, twenty stores as well as their website and all of their stock for £24 million. In 2013, Sport Direct bought 116 Republic stores as well as its brand name and the company's head office.
Today, the Sports Direct is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It has around 500 retail stores in different parts of Europe and employs more than eleven thousand people. Michael remains the Executive Deputy Chairman of the group.
Although Sport Direct is now a public traded company, Michael Ashley continues to hold majority stake (61.7%) in it. He primarily made his money by buying brands; Donnay being the first major brands to be acquired by him. Later he acquired other brands like Dunlop Slazenger, Everlast, Karrimor, Kangol, Lonsdale, Firetrap etc.
in 2007, Michal bought Newcastle United Football Club by paying out a hefty sum of £134 million. He also acquired 8.9% stake in Rangers Football Club, located at Glasgow.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1988, Michael Ashley married Linda Jerlmyr. She was a Swedish born economics graduate. They had three children: Matilda, Anna and Oliver.
Their marriage ended in 2003. It is believed that Ashley handed over assets worth fifty million pounds as divorce settlement. It included their sixteen bedroom family home.
Ashley is an extremely private person and so not much is known about his personal life. However, he now lives in Hertfordshire and his home is hidden behind rows of tress.