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27 Mar, 2020 12:44

‘Crocodile tears’: Sports Direct billionaire Ashley ‘deeply apologetic’ over coronavirus blunders

‘Crocodile tears’: Sports Direct billionaire Ashley ‘deeply apologetic’ over coronavirus blunders

Billionaire and retail giant Mike Ashley has apologized profusely for his company’s handling of the coronavirus and subsequent government-mandated lockdown. But many aren’t convinced by the attempted atonement.

When the British government announced a nationwide lockdown Monday, which included the closure of all non-essential shops, Ashley’s athletics retail company Sports Direct struck a defiant tone, seeking clarification from the government, and tagging Prime Minister Boris Johnson directly, as to the status of their stores. 

While awaiting a response, some Sports Direct staff were forced to come to work on Tuesday.

In its effort to stay open, Sports Direct argued that sports equipment was essential and that its stores should remain open. The stance prompted a terse response from Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove. “Sports Direct is not essential retail,” he said in an interview.

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In an open letter published on Friday, Ashley stated, “I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days,” while also thanking the employees “who have stood by the business in difficult times and are doing so currently.”

He vowed “not to make the same mistakes in the future.”

“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,” Ashley said.

To make amends, Ashley offered Sports Direct’s “entire fleet of lorries” to the National Health Service (NHS) and “all key workforces across the government… to help deliver medical equipment and supplies.”

The apology was too little, too late for some, however, with vociferous TV host Piers Morgan blasting it as “crocodile tears” and demanding that Ashley donate “some of [his] millions” to the NHS.

Ashley’s reputation preceded him and many weren’t buying what they perceived as a mealy-mouthed apology from the billionaire. The 55-year-old is the (deeply unpopular) owner of Newcastle United and fans of the club were quick to point out that the apology doesn’t mean that Ashley’s actions will change.

“In my experience Mike Ashley vowing ‘not to make the same mistakes in the future’ means he’s going to make the same mistakes in the future. Possibly as early as the same time next year,” one wrote.

Others noted that the apology is yet another bizarre occurrence in these strange times we are living through.

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