SHARES in Frasers Group closed down after Mike Ashley announced he would step back from the board next month, as one analyst signalled there may “no longer be a steady hand on the tiller”.

While Mr Ashley is to step down as a director of Sports Direct owner Frasers Group, he has said he will lend the business £100 million and will continue to act as an adviser to the board and senior management.

The billionaire retail magnate had already handed over the reins to new chief executive Michael Murray in May.

Mr Murray, the founder's son-in-law, was promoted to the position after leading Frasers' "elevation strategy" as the firm has sought to grow its premium division.

Mr Ashley has remained closely involved in the firm's management and is still the group's controlling shareholder with a stake of nearly 70 per cent.

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He said he remained "100% committed" to backing the group and will pay out the £100m in financing to show his "continuing strong support", with the cash lent on the same commercial terms as its existing borrowing facilities.

Mr Ashley launched Sports Direct, which was in recent years embroiled in a much-publicised merchandise row with Rangers FC, in 1982, later changing its name to Frasers Group after buying the House of Frasers department store in 2018.

It has since gone on to acquire a retail high street brands including Game, Evans Cycles, Jack Wills and Flannels.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “This is not a game changer as far as day-to-day operations are concerned as he already left his position as chief executive just over a year ago.

“However, by giving up his executive director role, it means he’ll leave the board and he will no longer be a steady hand on the tiller for the strategic direction of the company.”

Mike Ashley PASource: London Stock Exchange

She also said: “He may be a controversial figure in the world of business, but his shrewd judgement and business acumen which has enabled him to build up a retail powerhouse is still much admired.”

Mr Ashley said: "My commitment and support as a Frasers' shareholder is as strong as ever."

Mr Murray said: "With our new strategy and leadership team, we are driving this business forward at pace and we are all excited for the future."

Shares in Frasers closed down 9p, or 1.15%, at 777p.