Sports Direct took the unprecedented step of opening up its warehouse to the media in following years of damning exposures of its working practices.
The company has long held the press at arms length, believing according to one director at least that negative stories uncovered by newspapers like the Chad were just “tomorrow’s chip paper”.
But on Wednesday at least the company embraced a new found openness and flung open the doors of its vast Shirebrook warehouses to the assembled hordes of the national press.
Reporters and photographers doned hi-viz vests for a tour of the cavernous hangars where around 4,000 workers move stock and pick thousands of Internet orders each day.
Mike Ashley seemed to relish the job as he launched into his own version of a charm offensive.
He used the opportunity to show the huge scale of the operation where one shift could involve 1,200 workers.
He admitted that mistakes had been made - but wanted to prove the difficulty in controlling such a huge site.
Responding to criticisms which have branded the place a Victorian Gulag, he said: “I am sorry clearly I could have done a better job I didn’t knowingly do it badly. It is impossible in some ways to get it right no matter how slowly you phase things in.”
Hanging on his coat tails the media scrum progressed through a half-filled office, empty canteen and aisles stacked high with every conceivable sports shoe.
He explained how a Tannoy system should be used for communication with people and not for harassing them as has been alleged by undercover reports.
On reaching the exit points, a staff member performed a fake search on the Newscastle United owner.
According to reports a wedge of £50 notes fell out of one of his pockets.
Undercover reports discovered that on average workers at the site - of which around 80 per cent are on zero-hour contracts - were forced to stay for an extra 75 minutes per week, for which they were not paid, to be searched. This forced their hourly rate down from the national minimum wage of £6.70 to around £6.50 per hour.
He said: “This was just poorly managed I was not aware of the length of the queues.
“Why would you make people queue a the end of each shift ?
“ We do not make any money from people just trying to exit.
He said he had split shifts up and searches were now carried out at random for one in 10 employees.