Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley’s private jet made 90 flights in the past year to 15 countries – with destinations including Mykonos, the Maldives, Ibiza and Dubai – while WE were all grounded in Britain
- Private jet owned by Mike Ashley has landed at more than 30 destinations in 15 countries since June 1, 2020
- They include the Maldives, Dubai, Portugal, Miami and Orlando in Florida; as well as Crete, Majorca and Ibiza
- Jet made multiple trips to and from London Luton even after PM announced a third lockdown from January 6
- Sports Direct was handed more than £5 million a month in January and February this year to pay staff wages
A jet owned by Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley made over 90 flights to some of the world’s most desirable holiday destinations as taxpayers forked out tens of millions to pay his shop staff wages.
The Newcastle United owner’s Dassault Falcon 7X clocked up 145,000 miles in just 12 months, landing at 34 destinations in 15 countries since June 1, 2020.
They included the Maldives, Dubai, Portugal, Miami and Orlando in Florida, Crete, Mykonos and Zakynthos in Greece, as well as Majorca and Ibiza.
While the public have been tightly restricted, essential business travel has been allowed throughout the pandemic.
The £38 million aircraft, which its manufacturer says ‘handles like a fighter jet’ and travels near the speed of sound, also made multiple trips to and from London Luton even after Boris Johnson announced a third lockdown from January 6.
The Newcastle United owner’s Dassault Falcon 7X clocked up 145,000 miles in just 12 months, landing at 34 destinations in 15 countries since June 1, 2020. He is pictured above with wife Linda
Fresh from a number of flights to and from the Maldives in December, the jet flew from Luton to Dubai five times in January and February.
It subsequently flew to other destinations from Luton and Farnborough throughout February and March, including Dubai, Nassau in the Bahamas and Pisa in Italy, before landing in Miami on March 25 – where Mr Ashley owns a £32 million mansion.
Government data reveals that Sports Direct was handed more than £5 million a month in January and February this year to pay staff wages, with further sums given to staff in other parts of his retail empire to keep the business going.
It is unclear exactly which of the 90 flights Mr Ashley or his business associates were aboard, if any. But he has previously been unabashed about his transport preferences.
In 2016, he told the BBC: ‘I don’t get paid a salary but what I do like to do is go by private plane. And I do like to go by private plane because it saves a lot of time and it’s very efficient.’ In the same interview he described himself as a ‘PR nightmare’.
The jet can travel almost 7,000 miles in a single trip and fly at more than 650mph. It can reach Dubai from the UK in six-and-a-half hours and New York in seven hours.
Last night, a spokesman for Mr Ashley said: ‘We have no comment save that all appropriate business and personal policies, procedures and protocols have been followed and will continue to be followed.’
The jet can travel almost 7,000 miles in a single trip and fly at more than 650mph. It can reach Dubai from the UK in six-and-a-half hours and New York in seven hours
The Government website states that there was ‘a requirement for mandatory ten-day self-isolation for the vast majority’ of flights coming into the UK during the third lockdown, which started in January. However, this can be abbreviated by a private Covid test.
In January, Dubai was put on England’s ‘red list’ to block holidaymakers, although essential business trips were exempt. However, social media influencers were accused of twisting the rules by insisting they were working while posing for photographs poolside.
The company declined to comment on which flights Mr Ashley or his business associates – which include his daughter Anna’s partner Mike Murray – might have disembarked from or provide any information on his location during the period. But sources said Mr Ashley personally visited the Maldives in December – which matches with flight logs between December 12 and January 4.
It is understood he then relocated to Dubai, from where he ran his business, before heading to Miami where he also held meetings relating to his company.
Government data reveals that Sports Direct was handed more than £5 million a month in January and February this year to pay staff wages, with further sums given to staff in other parts of his retail empire to keep the business going
It is not clear whether Mr Ashley returned to the UK during that period but it is recorded that the jet operated in those areas for weeks.
The Dassault Falcon is registered to a company called SDI Aviation Limited, which in turn is 100 per cent owned by Frasers Group. Frasers owns sports empire Sports Direct, department store chain House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and fashion businesses Jack Wills, USC and Flannels. The latter is his upmarket labels store, which is advertised on the tailfin of the jet, and also on the company’s helicopter, an AgustaWestland.
Companies and billionaires often charter their helicopters, yachts and planes on days when they are not in use. Air Charter Scotland operates an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for the jet.
Logs suggest that on at least two occasions – on flights from Bournemouth to Newcastle and back on September 4 – the jet was chartered to Tui and easyJet. Air Charter Scotland’s site says the jet can carry 16 people, has a fully stocked bar, a double divan bed, a flight attendant serving hot and cold meals, and also advises that pets are allowed on board.
According to the logs, the plane remained in the United States from May 1 to 15, at which point it flew to Farnborough.
Mr Ashley attended a match between his Newcastle side and Fulham eight days later on May 23 – a rare sighting of the billionaire since autumn last year.
Mr Ashley is acknowledged to be a workaholic with a work-hard, play-hard approach to business. The Frasers group is worth £3 billion and he owns 64 per cent of it, according to the most recent information. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
The group’s annual report says that the business ‘is controlled by Mike Ashley’.
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