Sports Direct appears to have turned to Donald Trump for inspiration in its bid to combat negative headlines about the company.

Mike Ashley’s firm hasn’t been winning any PR awards recently.  First there was the Guardian’s expose of “gulag” conditions” at its now infamous warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. That was followed by a Parliamentary inquiry, which compared the company’s working practices to that of a “victorian workhouse”.

The company went on the offensive by holding an open day at the warehouse – but Ashley was filmed pulling a wad of £50 notes from his pockets.  “Yes, I’ve been to the casino,” was his defence.

And last week Ashley announced plans to appoint a worker to the company’s board – but the Institute of Directors said it would “little, if anything” to rescue its reputation as the “poster-child for corporate governance failings.

Now there’s more bad news for the discount sportswear retailer from a report by Pensions & Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) into executive pay rations.

It claims that the company has a chief executive-to-average employee pay ratio of 400:1 – the second most unequal in the FTSE 350.

Faced with another PR disaster, the firm has today turned to the Trump defence by branding the report “fake news”. In a statement, a spokesperson said:

“This is fake news that appears to have been either deliberately or recklessly circulated by an irresponsible organisation that is making headlines at the expense of Sports Direct.

“We have contacted PIRC to request a copy of the report and we will be writing to them to express our disappointment. It is incorrect to state that Sports Direct has the second-highest ratio of chief executive-to-average employee pay.”

It insisted the data sets used to calculate the pay gap were “incorrect” because it was based on a bonus entitlement that was never paid out to former chief executive Dave Forsey, who quit following the scandal at Shirebrook.

One way or another, someone is taking us for one of those giant Sports Direct mugs…

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