Dave King and three fans, Park, Letham and Taylor, have bought 31% of newco Rangers this week, to add to some minor shareholding previously held. King and the others are not presenting themselves as acting in union, as that would force them to launch a formal takeover bid for all shares in the club. So get it right, this is not a takeover attempt (cough).
King’s shares were acquired from Artemis and Miton Group, who were not aligned with the Easdales, Mike Ashley, or any onerous contracts, they were shareholders hooked at the IPO in December 2012.
We’ve long urged those who are seeking regime change to buy shares in newco, instead of trying to force it into insolvency, an inappropriate course of action. The actions this week confirm the view that the current regime are entrenched and only 50% + one share will change anything.
The remaining significant shareholders: Blue Pitch, Margarita, Easdales and Ashley will all have their exit price. Any one, or all of them, will go if the new investors are prepared to offer enough money – and that is likely to be considerably more than was paid to Artemis and Miton Group. The figures paid this week are relatively small beer compared to the tens of millions required to keep the financially non-viable entity afloat over the next few years.
King, of course, was non-executive director of Rangers, charged with ensuring good governance at the club which was found to have operated an illegal Discount Option Scheme and illegally paid five players through Employee Benefit Trusts, with others subject to appeal. He remained a director of the club until a liquidator was appointed to wrap-up its business.
He was also called a “glib and shameless liar” by a judge in South Africa, where he was convicted of tax evasion, so he’s pretty much perfect to take an active role in newco.
Reports suggest that there is not enough money in the business to meet January payroll, so we’ll not have to wait long to see if those currently in control are intent on remaining in control, of if they are prepared to sel-up and walk away.
My hunch – Ashley will not be usurped by people who attempted to put one of his businesses under. He has the profitable parts of newco Rangers and he’ll do whatever necessary to keep them. He also strikes me as someone who would be unforgiving in the face of manipulation.
A walk down memory lane: Fergus McCann offered bought out each member of Celtic’s old regime in 1994, no matter the price, apart from the likes of Kevin Kelly, who declined his cash but offered to vote alongside him. It cost a lot of money, but it was the right thing to do.