Sports Direct owner in line for windfall

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley remains on track for a multi-million pound windfall after his Sports Direct chain continued to beat expectations.

The group, which has nearly 400 stores and owns brands including Slazenger, Donnay and Karrimor, said retail sales rose 10.2 per cent to £408.6m in the 13 weeks to January 22, boosted by strong growth in internet trading.

It is now “certain” of hitting a bonus trigger of underlying profits of £225m for the year to April under the first leg of a three-year reward programme for Mr Ashley, who is executive deputy chairman.

Mr Ashley, who netted £929m in February 2007 after selling 43 per cent of the business he founded, receives no pay but is now on course to receive six million shares, currently worth £16m, in 2018.

The bonus that Mr Ashley could be in line to pocket has increased by £4m in recent months, reflecting the company’s improving performance on the stock market.

Hitting a lower target of £215m will also be a key milestone in the chain’s staff bonus scheme, which last year paid out more than £40,000 on average to some 2,000 staff.

It is thought to be the largest windfall handed out to shop staff in Britain.