Ian Scott International


A son-in-law with big plans to take Sports Direct upmarket

Michael Murray, married to Mike Ashley’s daughter Anna, is now his ‘head of elevation’ and a key player in House of Fraser’s future

He’s only just become Sports Direct’s W1A-style “head of elevation”, but Michael Murray, the fiance of Mike Ashley’s daughter Anna, is likely to take another step up with the takeover of House of Fraser.

The ailing chain’s 59 shops are partly a property play for Ashley, who will be renegotiating all the leases with landlords over the next year.

Murray, 28, who was put in charge of Sports Direct’s property in 2015, is likely to be at the forefront of making deals for the stores, which are expected to involve rent cuts, and setting up Sports Direct or Flannels outlets in the less salubrious locations. He may persuade landlords to co-operate in carving up sites to bring in gyms, office space or other users that will help drive footfall to ailing high streets.

Short term, Sports Direct can make money just by selling stock that it has more or less got for free. Long term, it will be about getting the right brands in the right locations at the right rents.

Originally from Doncaster, Murray began his career running festivals and student nights while still at Reading University after attending Sedbergh private school in Cumbria. He also bought two bars while still a student – no surprise, perhaps as property development is in his blood. His father, Mick, co-founded Lazarus Properties, Doncaster’s biggest landlord, which also owns high-end London properties in Kensington and Holland Park.

Arguably the biggest boost to Murray’s career came when he met Anna on holiday in Majorca in 2011. A few years later he helped develop a house for her before moving on to bigger deals. The couple now reportedly live together in a £10.7m home in Belgravia.

Since being taken on by Sports Direct as a consultant he has driven a shift to more modern stores in better locations, helping the retailer win over the big sports brands such as Adidas and Nike, which had been reluctant to supply the chain with their best products.

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