Elusive British billionaire Mike Ashley installed a range of right hand men to the board of Rangers over the past three months in order to secure his grip over the football club.
However, in a shock regulatory statement, it looks like he will have to find another close ally as James Easdale has now left.
The short statement confirmed that Easdale, who owns McGill’s bus services company, resigned from the board at Rangers with immediate effect.
“He leaves Rangers having never received any remuneration, bonus or compromise payment during his time at the Club,” said Rangers. “He would like to thank all the fans and shareholders who supported him and wishes the club a speedy return to the top flight of Scottish football and beyond.”
Sandy Easdale, brother of James and who is also on the Rangers’ board and has a 20% stake in the group, revealed in January this year that the club’s current board was “subjected to an unprecedented level of abuse.”
“People are entitled to air their views but I hope that all parties will agree that violence and intimidation are unacceptable,” said Sandy Easdale, after police were called in to investigate a number of death threats.
Mike Ashley, the owner of the £4 billion Sports Direct retail empire and football club Newcastle United, injected £10 million in January as part of a bid that might rescue the club.
In December 2014, his quest to boost his stake to around 30% of the club was prevented by the Scottish Football Association. It cited a “conflict of interest” with his Newcastle ownership (the two clubs compete for player contracts and could in theory face each other in European competition).
However, his loans to Rangers actually gives him a lot of control, including appointing directors and bosses to the beleaguered football club. This is something the fans hate.
In the same month, Ashley nominated his right-hand men, Derek Llambias and Barry Leach, to Rangers’ board. Llambias was the managing director of Newcastle United until his appointment as CEO of Rangers. Leach is the head of brands at Sports Direct as well as Rangers’ finance director now.
Lambias instructed the football club’s lawyers to disband the Rangers Fan Board (RFB), cementing many fans’ views over Ashley’s desire to not listen to the fans.
Ashley faces a tough month ahead as shareholders will vote at 6 March over the removal of his right hand men – David Somers, James Easdale (although he has now left), Llambias and Leach.
Former Rangers director and major shareholder, Dave King, is hoping to replace them with himself, Paul Murray and John Gilligan.
James Easdale previously said surviving a vote at the extraordinary general meeting would be “a hollow victory for me without the fans’ support.”