Frasers Group's Ashley issues apology, says firm ready to support NHS where it can
Frasers Group CEO Mike Ashley rarely worries about the bad PR that he often gets, but he's clearly been stung by criticism of his actions in recent days and on Friday issued an apology.
“Given what has taken place over the last few days, I thought it was necessary to address and apologise for much of what has been reported across various media outlets regarding my personal actions and those of the Frasers Group business,” he said.
Earlier in the week as the government ordered the closure of all non-essential shops, it was reported that Ashley intended to keep his Sports Direct chain open.
The CEO explained that his intention had only been to seek clarity from the UK government as to whether to keep some of the company’s stores open and he would never have acted against its advice. But he admitted that “in hindsight, our emails to the government were ill-judged and poorly timed, when they clearly had much greater pressures than ours to deal with. On top of this, our communications to our employees and the public on this was poor”.
It's a rare admission of a misstep from the retail entrepreneur who has become used to being criticised in the press (and in parliament) and usually doesn't seem to mind.
But it's clear that Ashley, like many other retail bosses, is operating in an unprecedented situation at the moment and feeling his way on a day-by-day basis. Other company management teams have also found themselves being criticised and have adjusted their actions as a result – as the raft of businesses announcing that they’ve closed down their online operations over worker concerns about inadequate social distancing measures has shown.
Ashley added: “There has been no dress rehearsal for what we as a nation are currently tackling, and I for one am immensely proud of how our government, our NHS and all of our key workers have handled the situation so far. I would especially like to thank my Frasers Group employees, who have stood by the business in difficult times before and are doing so again currently. We are working very hard to save our business, so that we can continue to be one of the biggest employers on the UK high street once this pandemic has passed.”
And he also said that the firm has offered its support to the NHS and is “poised and ready for when that offer is accepted, with our entire fleet of lorries at their disposal - to help deliver medical equipment and supplies. This offer is not limited to the NHS but all key workforces across the government. We will help wherever possible”.
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