SPORTS Direct, the retailer led by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, has won its battle to force the removal of David Bernstein as chairman of the ailing retailer Blacks Leisure.
Bernstein, who is also chairman of the Football Association, said he had agreed to step down with immediate effect after 10 years in the role.
The decision comes after Sports Direct, which owns a 21% stake in Blacks, voted against his reappointment at the firm’s AGM last week.
Its opposition comes after a 97% fall in the value of the company’s share since Sports Direct first invested in the chain in 2007.
A Sports Direct source had been quoted as saying the company was “astonished” that Bernstein was still in the job. The retailer was reportedly considering a plan to call an extraordinary general meeting to oust him.
Blacks said Bernstein decided to step down because the company needed “a unified shareholder base” at a time of difficult trading.
It added: “During his time with the company, David has made a considerable contribution to the business and the board would like to take this opportunity to express their gratitude and to wish him well for the future.”
Blacks recently negotiated a new £40m banking facility from Bank of Scotland, effectively giving it an extra £2m until December 15.
The move followed a “significant increase” in its debt after a worse than expected 9.7% drop in like-for-like sales in the 19 weeks to July 9.
Bernstein’s departure comes less than a week after former Figleaves boss Julia Reynolds started at Blacks as its new chief executive.
Some analysts have speculated that Blacks may look to raise cash from shareholders, although it will need the support of Sports Direct to be able to do this.