Sports Direct: Billionaire owner Mike Ashley pulls out wads of cash during HQ tour

Businessman has faced heavy criticism over working conditions for warehouse staff

sports direct

Mike Ashley empties his pockets during a mock search at the Sports Direct headquarters | Photo: PA Images

Billionaire Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley was left red-faced after emptying wads of £50 notes from his pockets during a warehouse tour.

The British tycoon was filmed as he visited the retailer's Shirebrook headquarters in front of journalists, as he tried to fend off criticism about the way his workers have been treated.

When asked to empty his pockets into an airport-style security tray, he pulled out the wads of £50 notes.

Following a comment on the amount of cash he was carrying, he joked: "Yes, I've been to the casino."

The footage was filmed during the firm's AGM, which saw shareholders reject the reappointment of its chairman to the board.

Photo: PA Images

Sports Direct has been under the spotlight for months after a Guardian investigation exposed conditions at Shirebrook, amid claims by MPs that it was being run like a "Victorian warehouse".

Some workers were effectively being paid less than the minimum wage because they were subjected to security checks outside the times when they were clocked in for work.

Sports Direct has since apologised and offered better working conditions.

After a stinging internal report, the firm promised yesterday it would pay staff it directly employs above the minimum wage.

The company said the workers would be offered the option of switching from zero-hours contracts to contracts with at least 12 hours of work per week.

However, the bulk of workers will miss out as they are employed by agencies.

The report showed the vast majority of the company's 27,000 directly-employed or contract staff were on casual contracts.