Sports Direct then held a second vote on Hellawell's re-election in January, at which 54% of independent shareholders, excluding Ashley, still voted against the chairman.
Speaking at Sports Direct's controversial warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, he said the biggest challenge for the company this year was to "recognise things that are wrong and have to be put right".
Approximately 5% of independent shareholders withheld their votes.
Just over a dozen investors were understood to have attended the gathering in person.
During the meeting Hellawell defended the firm's record.
Earlier on Wednesday, Sports Direct had said it was "optimistic" about this year's performance given the strong performance of its new, more premium "next generation" stores.
Several independent investors had called for a new chairman to speed up reforms of working practices, restructure the board and improve corporate governance.
Balls and bags Branded goods for sale at Ashley’s Twickenham retail park store
He added that the zero-hours contracts meant Sports Direct would find it easier to employ people like single mothers and students.
In the report, Sports Direct admitted to a number of accusations made against it related to poor working conditions at its warehouse in Shirebrook, including underpayment of staff, punishments for taking short breaks during work hours, and a breach of health and safety practices. It took three years to recruit a permanent finance director.
The former West Yorkshire Police chief constable and government drugs tsar saw 53.24% of shareholders vote in favour of his reappointment, while a significant tranche - 46.76% - opposed the move.
Hellawell said at the meeting that a review of the firm's corporate governance was progressing, without giving details.
In a statement ahead of the AGM to the London Stock Exchange, Sports Direct said its profit expectations for the current financial year were on track following a 59% drop in the previous 12 months.
There was no mention of trading in the firm's old, un-refurbished stores.