Frasers Group PLC (LON:FRAS) boss Mike Ashley has said he is “deeply apologetic” for the actions of the retail conglomerate following intense criticism over its actions during the coronavirus pandemic.
The company, which owns the Sports Direct chain, has come under pressure over the last week for demanding that its stores be deemed ‘essential’ and stay open during the outbreak before hastily backtracking on the decision following a public backlash.
Ashley himself has also been criticised for keeping the company’s Sports Direct warehouse open in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, despite concerns that staff operating the facility are at risk of catching the infection.
In an open letter published on Friday, the retail tycoon said the company’s emails to the government asking if its stores could stay open as essential outlets “were ill-judged and poorly timed”, adding that communication to employees and the public had also been “poor”.
“There has been no dress rehearsal for what we as a nation are currently tackling, and I for one am immensely proud of how our Government, our NHS & all of our key workers have handled the situation so far. I would especially like to thank my Frasers Group employees, who have stood by the business in difficult times before and are doing so again currently”, Ashley said.
“We are working very hard to save our business, so that we can continue to be one of the biggest employers on the UK high street once this pandemic has passed”, he added.
Ashley also said that he had offered the company’s support to the NHS and other government workforces, including its entire fleet of lorries to help deliver medical equipment.
“Finally, to reiterate, I am deeply apologetic about the misunderstandings of the last few days. We will learn from this and will try not to make the same mistakes in the future”, the CEO concluded.