The future son-in-law of Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley was paid over £4m ($5.2m) last year for property consulting at Ashley’s business empire.
Accounts for Frasers Group (FRAS.L), the holding company for billionaire Ashley’s retail businesses, show Michael Murray was paid £4.3m in the company’s last financial year.
Murray’s take home last year was higher than the average annual earnings of a FTSE 100 CEO and far more than Frasers Group’s own leadership team. Executive pay has been capped at £150,000 since 2002.
30-year-old Murray is engaged to Ashley’s daughter Anna. A former nightclub promoter and son of a property developer, Murray was hired in 2016 to run property at Frasers Group, then called Sports Direct. He was promoted to “head of elevation” in 2018 and tasked with taking the discount sports group upmarket and modernising it. He is increasingly seen as Ashley’s right hand man and heir to the business.
Murray, who works through his own consultancy company, takes no salary from Frasers Group and instead earns money by negotiating property deals on behalf of the company. He is tasked with sourcing and negotiating leases on building and, once a deal closes, is eligible for 25% of the “value created”. Sports Direct said this is assessed by “an independent valuer” and agreed by the board.
The arrangement has seen Murray earn over £10m in the last few years. He told the Guardian last year his pay arrangements were “a very fair deal for Sports Direct.”
Valuers concluded at the end of last year that Murray was eligible for £5.3m, out of which the £4.3m was paid. Frasers Group said the lower payout was because Murray had agreed to waive part of his entitlement and take a lower commission rate of 20% of value.
Frasers Group said Murray’s entitlements in its more recent financial year, which covers the 12 months to April 2020, had not yet been calculated.
“With the widespread closure of businesses, furloughing of employees, people ordered to stay at home and the unprecedented economic environment; any property valuations would, at best, be uncertain and, at worst, be unreliable,” directors wrote in the accounts.
“As a consequence, it is not possible to quantify the value created on property transactions reliably.”
The company said there was “a current pipeline of properties that may be eligible to be assessed” in future. Spending on property leapt from £48.2m in 2019 to £202.6m last year.
The disclosure on Murray’s pay came as Frasers Group revealed a 20% slump in annual profits due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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