I've been stabbed in the back: Mike Ashley's astonishing tirade

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has accused shareholders of stabbing him the back, triggering speculation that the billionaire may take the company private.
In a tirade, the 54-year-old accused investors of failing to support him and 'repeatedly hounding' close ally Keith Hellawell, who quit as chairman this week.
And in comments that betrayed Ashley's irritation with the increased scrutiny that comes with being a public company, he said: 'It is blatantly apparent that true entre- preneurs will never be accepted in the public arena.
'The shareholders have now made it extremely challenging for future engagement to take place.
'On the one hand they are delighted with our performance and progress, yet with the other hand they have stabbed Sports Direct and myself in the back by repeatedly hounding Keith Hellawell.'
The outburst – in a statement that was published yesterday – sparked speculation that Ashley may want to buy the company and take it back into private ownership.
Comparing the tycoon with American billionaire and Tesla founder Elon Musk, Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: 'It's a reasonable conclusion which people will reach.'
Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United FC, has not been far from the limelight ever since he listed Sports Direct in 2007.
He has come under fire for poor working conditions at its warehouses and business dealings with his family, including the promotion of his daughter's fiance, Michael Murray, to become 'head of elevation' on £5million a year.
Ashley's unruly behaviour has also attracted attention.
A court last year heard he held meetings with management in the pub, and even vomited into a fireplace at one business gathering after drinking a dozen pints and vodka chasers.
Hellawell, 76, finally quit at the company's AGM this week after a barrage of criticism from shareholders over the way the company is run.
Simon Bentley, the senior independent director, also resigned. It came during a chaotic few hours which saw Sports Direct row back on comments it was eyeing a bid for Debenhams following its recent £90million takeover of House of Fraser, which he has promised to transform into the 'Harrods of the High Street'.
Ashley said: 'Despite significant challenges within the retail sector in the UK and beyond, which have resulted in many retailers failing, Sports Direct has continued to perform well and exceed market expectations. 
The acquisition of House of Fraser will be a game changer.' Despite this progress, he said, 'shareholders appear to be affected by the pressure of the media and certain other organisations, and they have failed to support Sports Direct, Keith and myself, on this journey'.
He added: 'The media circus surrounding Sports Direct, including but not restricted to matters connected to our AGM, only proves that whatever progress Sports Direct makes, it will always be subject to disproportionate scrutiny and misrepresentation.'
Sports Direct shares have risen 31 per cent since it listed, valuing it at £1.9billion. Ashley's 61 per cent is worth nearly £1.2billion.
House of Fraser collapsed with debts of £1billion. Ashley bought it using a controversial 'pre-pack' administration meaning he took on the business free of debts.
He has angered House of Fraser suppliers and customers after refusing to pay the retailer's debts and allegedly reneging on a promise to refund customers who had their orders cancelled. 
Ashley said: 'The people in the Sports Direct group, including House of Fraser, are and will, continue to be my number-one priority.'
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