Glasgow club still losing millions of pounds
19 December ~ If they could sell TV rights to today's annual general meeting (AGM), Rangers would be richer than Manchester City. Rebuilding the club after 2012's liquidation has been predictably messy. The current board, up for re-election, will almost certainly remain in situ. But while their overpaid team steamrollers Scotland's third tier, the public slanging match between rival shareholders promises Rangers fans a proper showdown. In the part-time divisions of Scotland, Rangers have somehow spent almost all the £22 million raised in December 2012's share issue.
Over half the 43,000 fans at this month's home game against Ayr United held up A3-sized red cards against the board on 18 then 72 minutes (Rangers were formed in 1872). The cards, with 21 complaints detailed on the reverse, were distributed by the Sons of Struth, a supporters' organisation mooting season ticket boycotts if heads don't roll this week.
The AGM was originally scheduled for October. But Scotland's Court of Session postponed it when the board illegally failed to register the proposal of four new directors on the agenda. By taking legal action those “requisitioners”, outraged by the club losing £14m in 13 months to June, unintentionally scuppered their chances of becoming directors.
Decimated by the resignations which followed the court ruling, the incumbent board used the intervening weeks to appoint a new chairman and chief executive and secure further investment from the largest single shareholder, hedge fund Laxey Partners. On Tuesday a controversial leak stated the current directors had already secured enough institutional votes to guarantee their positions.
Their collective reputation, however, is irretrievably damaged. Local bus magnate Sandy Easdale – jailed for fraud in 1997 – holds proxy voting rights for the Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita Holdings consortiums, widely believed to be run by sacked chief executive Charles Green. Blue Pitch was put together by Rafat Rizvi, wanted by Interpol regarding a collapsed Indonesian bank.
New chairman David Somers labelled the requisitioners "fanatics" and, incredibly, claimed it was only when joining Rangers last month that he first heard of Green and disgraced former owner Craig Whyte. Laxey demanded the finance director, Brian Stockbridge, return the £200,000 bonus he awarded himself for winning the Third Division. Stockbridge can't, however, reverse his decision to film and publicise footage of requisitioner Malcolm Murray drunk on a night out. The current board's nadir came when their PR guru Jack Irvine insulted John Greig, the man voted "Greatest Ever Ranger".
The requisitioners aren't faultless. Spokesman Paul Murray was a member of the board approving the Employee Benefit Trust payments which created the fatal financial uncertainty around the club, pre-liquidation Malcolm Murray (no relation) was only sacked as chairman of the current board in May and maintains his recent addressing of a Rangers fans group with the phrase “No Surrender” had nothing to do with it being an Ulster Loyalist war cry. Manager Ally McCoist, tired of glad-handing a never-ending line of chairmen and CEOs, has been politically astute. He's gifted the proxy votes from his one million shares to his home town Rangers supporters' club.
Billionaire Glasgow businessman Jim McColl and the less reputable Dave King – recently facing 322 charges of tax evasion in South Africa – wait in the wings with the kind of money which will be needed if Rangers are to return to their Champions League heyday. Both have so far only flirted with the rival sides in the power struggle. Like most Rangers fans, they'll want at least one requisitioner voted on board, and the heads of Stockbridge and Irvine, to demonstrate the club is back on track. Today shouldn't be a fait accompli. Alex Anderson