'PR nightmare' Mike Ashley defends flying to work in helicopter - and admits paying 'cleaning lady' £80,000 bonus

Picture by PA.
Picture by PA.
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Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley said he is being "real" when he chooses to travel by helicopter, and disclosed that a cleaning lady at the company was paid an £80,000 bonus.

Speaking after the firm announced it would have an independent review of its working practices and corporate governance, he reiterated his apology for things that had gone wrong but insisted there have also been positives at the retailer.

He defended his expensive method of travel, and said the Government is responsible for workers being paid the minimum wage, not him.

He told BBC Breakfast: "I do fly to work by helicopter, it's a reality. So when people say 'Oh be real', that's how I travel."

He added: "People will say 'how can you have a plane when your workers are on minimum wage?'

"I said 'but I don't set the minimum wage'. If the minimum wage would be the living wage, then the Government who set the rules should set it at the living wage. That's as I look at it."

Mr Ashley put the poor practices discovered at the business down to a "rotten apple in the barrel" and said there are a lot of good things about the firm.

He said: "I can tell you in the last five years Sports Direct will have paid out over £200 million in bonuses. So I can tell you the cleaning lady got an £80,000 bonus on top of her normal pay. Nobody in the UK has done that.

"What we've got to do is focus on getting the bits we've got wrong, to the extreme highs of the bits we've got right.

"And paying out that kind of money doesn't mean you're allowed to get these bits wrong, where clearly I've taken my eye off the ball.

"I've said sorry, I've said I'm going to fix it, and I will."

Describing himself as a bit of a "PR nightmare", he referred to the moment he joked that he had been to the casino after he pulled a wad of cash from his pocket when he was showing investors and journalists around the Shirebrook warehouse earlier this month.

He said: "The one thing people didn't say to me was 'Mike, have you checked how much money you've got in your pocket?' And of course nobody thought to ask me whether or not I had genuinely been to the casino a few days earlier."