Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has lashed out at unions and Hartlepool MP Iain Wright among others, blaming them for the retailer’s long list of problems.
During the firm’s annual general meeting and “open day” on Wednesday, the billionaire accused Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner of “showboating” when challenged over plans to reform working practices.
The Newcastle United owner said: “This is probably your fault we are in this mess because we can’t talk to you.
“I made a commitment to make a difference, I am trying, don’t pull me down.
“I accept I have made some errors and I accept I can learn something. Please don’t do the whole showboating thing, it will make me turn away and it’s the people who work in Sports Direct who suffer.”
Mr Turner had enraged the Newcastle United owner after suggesting that Mr Ashley should be offering more guaranteed hours to staff.
Mr Ashley also hit back at the MPs who put him through the ringer at a House of Commons Business Select Committee hearing, chaired by town MP Mr Wright, in June.
“One thing I am not allowed to say, but I am going to, is I disagree a little bit with what the MPs said.
“In 2008ish maybe nine, the web turnover was circa £10million. In 2016/17 wherever we are now the web turnover is £500 million.
“It is incredibly labour intensive to pick and pack for the web.
“If you are an MP in the House of Commons you can’t possibly understand the scale and the size of this operation.
“Even if we did it all again, we would still make mistakes.”
During a tour of the company’s Shirebrook warehouse, Mr Ashley said he did not “knowingly” or “deliberately” run the operation badly, adding the firm’s rapid growth and the scale of the business had made it difficult to get it right.
At one stage Mr Ashley - who has been lambasted for not paying staff the National Minimum Wage, using zero-hour contracts and presiding over “Victorian” working practices - pulled out a wad of £50 notes as he emptied his pockets during a mock search.
The AGM vote saw independent shareholders vent their anger at chairman Keith Hellawell.
Earlier in the day, Mr Hellawell said he will step down at next year’s annual general meeting if he does not have the support of shareholders.
Shares in Sports Direct took a hammering, plunging after the retailer said earnings are expected to come in at £300 million for the year, down from £381.4 million.