Elusive British billionaire Mike Ashley lost one of his Glasgow Rangers’ henchmenfrom the board last week and now it looks his fortunes have taken another turn for the worse.
Rangers Chairman David Somers, who tried to push through Ashley’s plan to takeover the club last year, revealed in a regulatory statement today that he has resigned from the board with immediate effect:
“I have resigned as Chairman of Rangers International Football club plc. I have worked in the City of London, the world’s greatest financial centre for decades and enjoyed considerable success. When I was approached about the Chairmanship of Rangers, friends warned me that the world of football has different rules and codes of behaviour. I now know that is a gross understatement.
“I am a non-confrontational man and have always tried to bring harmony to boardrooms and with stakeholders. At the risk of antagonising my army of critics I would point out that Rangers managed to pay its bills and avoid going under during my tenure. These critics might not agree with how we achieved this. I look forward to alternative solutions from whoever is running the club in the future.
“Despite the personal attacks on me from various sources I genuinely wish the club the very best in the future and I am confident that with such a passionate and vociferous fan base they will be restored to their former glories.”
Somers held the position of Chairman since October last year. However, like his ex-colleague on the board James Easdale, he faced major criticism and protest from Rangers fans.
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.
He personally owns 4% of Rangers but combined with the extra 5% he bought through his MASH holdings company, he is now the second-largest shareholder in the group.
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 leaked emails from December last year, Somers pleaded for Ashley’s takeover to succeed and admitted he and his ousted former colleague James Easdale were in the “minority” over Ashley’s plans for the troubled football club.
He warned in an email to Ashley’s lawyer Justin Barnes that he and Easdale would not “survive” the board if Ashley’s takeover didn’t go through and they didn’t make a hash of the negotiations:
“Why have you changed yesterday’s deal? Particularly for a particularly stupid alternative.
“Meanwhile I have received a formal proposal for a deal from Dave King and my board are clamouring for a board call to discuss it and no doubt approve it. A board on which James and I are in a minority.
“(Major Rangers shareholder) Dave King’s proposal includes board seats, which means Sandy, James and I will not survive on this board very much longer. Yes, you can vote them off at the next AGM but they can do a great deal of damage before then.
“It we are going down this route because you guys are pratting about, then even I will be voting to put out a stock exchange announcement that we are terminating Sports Directs (sic) contract; even though it is one of the last board meetings Sandy and I attend. I am very angry about this total stupidity.”
Ashley faces a tough week ahead as shareholders will vote at 6 March over the removal of his remaining right hand men — Derek Llambias and Barry Leach – now that Easdale and Somers are no longer on the Rangers’ board.
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.”