Tuesday’s Telegraph suggested Mike Ashley is about to increase his shareholding in newco to 29.9% via a share issue, in contravention of his agreement with the SFA on multiple ownership. This morning the club informed the stock market the Ashely’s appointee, Derek Llambias, is now chief executive.
The key passage in the Telegraph article is:
“There is no certainty of anything like unanimous approval, but many in the higher reaches of the Scottish game acknowledge that a revived Rangers, capable of resuming the Old Firm rivalry and renewing the club’s presence in Europe would make Scotland more attractive to broadcasters and league sponsors, with general benefits.”
This has almost certainly come from the same kind of club source which in another lifetime were assuring journalists that HMRC would agree to a CVA; I know for sure the SFA are far from ready to rubber-stamp an Ashley land grab.
There are a few points which, despite blanket coverage of this issue, are not getting a proper hearing:
At current trading levels, Ashley is earning around £4m p.a. from newco as their retail ‘partner’. He is also their exclusive wholesaler, so the club is worth even more to him, let’s say £5m p.a. in total.
Anyone who tells you his financial pay-off is through having newco wear his branding on a European stage is either wholly compliant in an attempt to mislead newco fans, or is simply regurgitating information handed to them by PR agents, without the wherewithal to digest the information correctly.
He’s making £5m per year and he therefore has an interest in ensuring the club continues in its current condition.
The second issue is around the legality of multiple-ownership. It is not against Uefa rules (you can simply comply by one club not competing) but does breach rules in Scotland and England. I recommend not getting too hung-up on this point. In the event he was asked to disinvest from one of his clubs, Ashley could with pull a Blue Pitch Holdings/Margarita stroke.
For all you know about those two newco investors, I could own them. It’s a paper exercise for Ashley to move his ownership beyond the reaches of oversight, and there is nothing in the rules to prevent this.
The question for the SFA, and eventually the FA, is what level of Ashley’s influence, not ownership, they are comfortable with. There are no guidelines on this point.
A further consideration is that whoever briefed the Telegraph at the start of the week is likely to have painted a scenario that without Ashley’s next bung, newco is likely to go the way of oldco. This is far from certain.
If all newco need to survive another season is circa £8m it’s not a figure beyond the realms of possibility for some of the blowhards who have been trying to disrupt Ashley’s strategy in recent months.
My hunch is that the SFA and newco’s fans will be presented with a fait accomply – it’s Ashley or bust. What is certain is that the club will be vastly more inhibited by Ashley milking it dry than with a unifying figure. He has the makings of a memorable Ibrox owner, a true heir to Sir David Murray.
Still time to order Caesar & the Assassin, the 2015 CQN Annual, with or without bundle, or anything else from the vast array of Celtic books and DVDs in time for Christmas post, but you don’t have long……
Thank you to everyone who participated in our Magners ticket competition yesterday – and who donated to Mary’s Meals. The answer to the question, who do we play on 27 December, is Ross County, which proved to be trickier than I thought. Draw will be made this afternoon and winner informed thereafter.