Online home shopping group Findel has announced that it is in ‘early stages of discussions’ with Sports Direct International regarding a possible commercial supply arrangement and appointment of Mike Ashley to the board.

Responding to recent press speculation, Findel said that talks were in place over a supply arrangement between Express Gifts and SDI, while Schroders – on behalf of SDI – proposed that Mike Ashley, owner of SDI, to be made chairmen of Findel, potentially replacing the outgoing chairman David Sugden.

In a statement, Findel said: “The Board of Findel considers there to be great merit in exploring a commercial supply arrangement with SDI and that Mike Ashley could make a valuable contribution to the Board of Findel but has not concluded on whether Mr Ashley should be chairman.

“There would need to be means through which minority shareholders could be protected and Mr Ashley would need first to be approved by the Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates Express Gifts Limited.

“There can be no certainty that any commercial arrangement between SDI and Express Gifts will be forthcoming. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

The news comes after 81% of Findel shareholders voted against appointing Ben Gardener, of Sports Direct, onto its board back in December 2015.