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Politician turns chairman: Hellawell takes on Sports Direct

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You may remember Hellawell as the former government drugs tsar who resigned over the declassification of cannabis in 2002. Hellawell is to replace acting Sports Direct chairman Simon Bentley and has been appointed non-executive chairman, effective immediately.

Sports Direct is in hot water. The sportwear chain is currently under investigation for "suspected agreement or concerted practice to dampen competition in the sports retail market" between June 2007 to March 2009. The Serious Fraud Office began the investigation last September after fellow sportswear chain JJB admitted its involvement in the wrongdoing, asking for immunity for its cooperation with the investigation.

This is where Hellawell comes in. The ex-politician has become an expert at squashing fraud claims after Goldshield, the pharmaceutical group he also chairs, was acquitted of defrauding the NHS. During the Goldshield investigation, Hellawell accused the SFO of wasting resources on the £40m enquiry: "This cannot do anything but damage the SFO’s reputation," he said. "It would be fine if this was a one-off, but they have had no major recent successes. It must come as a bitter blow."

Sports Direct deputy chairman Mike Ashley, who owns a 71 per cent shareholding in the business, is no doubt hoping that Hellawell will win a further victory against the SFO.  It has been a rough year for Ashley. The entrepreneur also owns troubled football club Newcastle United. In June Ashley attempted to sell the football club off for a loss of £150m. And his troubles don’t end there.

Sports Direct is currently embroiled in a war with Tesco. The supermarket chain mistakenly paid Ashley’s Universal Cycles £984,000 for six bicycles, instead of the £984 billed. Tesco is currently chasing its £1m refund. The matter may yet be settled out of court.

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