Shareholders in Sport Direct have approved a bonus plan that could pay out £200m to employees including the retailer's founder and major shareholder Mike Ashley. 

The scheme, which was backed by 60.4% of the votes cast, was Sports Direct's fourth attempt at rewarding Ashley, who receives no salary or other bonus from the retailer. 

Chairman Keith Hellawell said the company's employee bonus share scheme was one of the most wide reaching and successful in Britain. 

"Today's vote in favour of the resolution will ensure that the group continues to retain and motivate its hard-working employees," he said in a statement. 

"The resolution today also recognises the substantial contribution made by Mike Ashley over many years and, as demonstrated by the previous schemes, has the potential to create a further significant increase in shareholder value," he added. 

Shareholder and business lobby groups had called on investors to oppose the scheme, with the Institute of Directors saying it was unthinkable for a senior executive who was also the company's major shareholder to receive such a bonus. 

Ashley, who is deputy executive chairman, has a near 58% stake in the group he founded in 1982. He owns Newcastle United soccer club and also owns a 50% stake in Heatons, the Irish department store chain.
Shares in Sport Direct have more than doubled since they listed at 300 pence in 2007. The group is valued at about £4.33 billion.