LONDON (Reuters) - Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct said on Friday it would vote against the reappointment of the entire board of Goals Soccer Centres at the latter’s annual shareholders’ meeting, escalating a row with the five-a-side football pitch operator.
Sports Direct, which owns a 19% stake in Goals Soccer Centres, has demanded that the board of Goals Soccer Centres allow corporate investigator Kroll to carry out a “cradle to grave” report into the company’s finances. The costs of the probe would be borne by Sports Direct.
However, Goals Soccer Centres has not acceded to its request. Its AGM will be held on June 28.
Shares in Goals Soccer Centres were suspended from trading on London’s AIM market in March after it revealed a 12 million pounds ($15.2 million) misdeclaration of VAT sales tax.
In May it engaged forensic accountants to investigate historic accounting errors and policies. It has also appointed other independent advisors to assist it in examining its historic treatment of VAT as well as its ongoing talks with Britain’s tax authority - HMRC.
On Tuesday, Goals Soccer Centres appointed Deloitte to work alongside its current advisors and lenders in assessing its future corporate options.
Sports Direct said on Friday it did not consider Goals Soccer Centres’ advisers to be independent.
“In light of the perceived lack of transparency by the Goals’ board and the resulting loss of confidence Sports Direct has in the board as a whole, Sports Direct will be voting against the reappointment of the whole of the company’s board at its AGM on 28 June.”
Goals Soccer Centres said in a statement on Friday that appointing Kroll “is not appropriate” and “would be disruptive to the ongoing investigations.”
The firm noted Sports Direct’s voting intentions, adding it “respects the views of all its shareholders.”
Goals Soccer Centres had a market value of 20.4 million pounds when its shares were suspended.
Billionaire Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United soccer club, made his fortune from building Sports Direct. Over recent years he has also taken stakes in a raft of other businesses.
His investments, such as in department store Debenhams, have not always been successful.
Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Susan Fenton