Exclusive Interview - Alex Wilson
- 05 December 2013
You met with around 500 fans the other night in an open meeting. How do you feel it went?
AW – It was a challenging meeting as we expected. At the end a lot people came up and said keep going, you're doing the right things. Ultimately, people were allowed to ask the questions they wanted and were given the answers we could give in a very straight forward fashion. It wasn't a walk in the park but I think it was very successful overall.
Do you think there has been enough interaction with fans through this process?
AW – I think there is still enough time in the run up to the AGM. We've published our Rangers Constitution which is putting into print some of the pledges we made at the meeting last week. We'll also publish our own 1000 word statement for the AGM which we are entitled to have sent to shareholders. That will talk about the case we have and we're prepared to meet people between now the AGM. I think the thing that's not easily seen, and perhaps we should have made it more known, is that Paul, Malcolm and I have met fan representatives quite extensively, both formally and informally, over the past 2-3 months. Maybe we should have made that more public and held more public gatherings, it's a fair point, but I hope we've done enough to get the case across on the need for change.
Are you concerned that despite being supportive, some fan shareholders might still not be clear about the need to vote?
AW – Once we issue our 1000 word statement we'll talk to the groups and make sure we get a summary up on how to go about voting. We want people to cast their vote and we hope they will cast it in support of us. This is a one time opportunity to remedy so much that has gone badly wrong for the club in the past couple of years. Despite the stuff coming out from the board saying we are rabble rousers and it's only a noisy minority of fans who support us, for anyone who has been to the games I don't see how they can say that. When the banners go up in protest there is always at least healthy applause in support.
The AGM forms sent out by the board have raised the possibility of issues with your appointments in terms of approval from the SFA and AIM. Do you feel these are valid?
AW – NOMADs all operate under the same standards and broadly ensure people are fit proper if they declare honestly which, when we look into the past with Craig Whyte's declarations, people sometimes don't do. There is no reason why a NOMAD should have any issues with our qualifications as fit and proper persons to sit on the board. We would still have to go through SFA approval but again there is no valid reason to suggest any issues. It's no surprise to me that David Somers has made these statements. We initially hoped he was independent but it's now clear that he is aligning himself with the previous regime. We don't know who nominated him as chairman – it's just not clear how he got that position. He's recommended against us being appointed, said it would be bad for the club, but he's put the current finance director, someone we've made our views clear on, up for re-election.
Jim McColl's comments at the fan meeting have been seen by some as a climb down, given the tone of reconciliation. Were those remarks an endorsement of all the new board members, as they have been presented by some, or were they more specific with regards to Graham Wallace?
AW - I think the latter. The phrase we've used is that we need to cleanse the board. I don't think Jim's remarks were meant to be conciliatory on Somers or endorse him. We can't be disingenuous about Wallace. We've said we are going to be open and transparent. We spoke to Mr Wallace about being part of our team, on the Exec group, so he's someone who, from what we know in terms of his reputation and on paper, is a credible individual He's clearly credible and someone we can work with.
So is Jim McColl "giving up", as some have said, and is he now happy with the board?
AW – The headlines, to me, were just attempts to sell some print. Jim McColl, right from the beginning, thought something needed to be done but because of other investment commitments he couldn't play an active part. He sees the need for change and has a desire to see people on the board who actually represent the needs of the club, will work for the benefit of the club, can establish trust and transparency for the IPO investors who showed faith in the club, and can build trust again with the fans. He thinks Wallace is credible but if you read his comments, rather than just the headlines, he was clear on the need for us, as nominee directors, to be on the board as well.
Are the original block of shareholders who supported the EGM requisition still supportive?
AW – The board talk to investors and so do we. You can never be sure of what will happen until people cast their vote but the investment institutions that were looking for change are still looking for change. Laxey is one that puzzles us because they said they would follow the fans and now seem to have had a change of heart. They are the only ones who have indicated a change of heart either publicly or privately.
There have been some claims that the board could command around 70% of the vote at the AGM? Do you feel these are accurate?
AW - I wouldn't accept that as accurate in any way.
Assuming you are successful in being appointed to the board, is there more you can say on specific plans for funding or how the club would be run? Is it possible to be more specific?
AW - We know how we want to operate but what we find when we get in there is impossible to say. When we lift the lid on it we have no idea what is going to come out. What worries us is that there is a cash outflow which has not been explained, so we need to look at what we have and then start to address it urgently. We can't say specifically who will invest. We have 3-4 people who are wealthy individuals who have approached us and said they will put money into the club if the board is trustworthy and clean. We've also had some of the institutions, who we can't name for reasons of confidentiality; tell us they will put more money in. We just can't put names into the public domain at this time as frustrating as that might be for people.
Would these people invest without change to the board?
AW – My opinion is definitely not.
A statement was made last week regarding Brian Stockbridge being reported to the Serious Fraud Office over payments made out of the club. Is it possible to release more detail?
AW – It is difficult to release more. We don't know what the Serious Fraud Office are doing and we can't find out from them but a report was made to them by an ex employee. We have an affidavit to that effect. Unless the individual is willing to step forward publicly then we can't share the affidavit. It would be great if they did but it takes a lot of courage to do that, especially when the individual alleges that some threats have been made against them if they do step forward.
Jim McColl also mentioned threats and Frank Blin was reported to have stepped back because of similar issues. Have you been threatened or thought to step away because of threats to others?
AW – To the best of my knowledge neither Scott nor I have received any threats. I certainly haven't. I think Paul and Malcolm have had problems in the past. Frank Blin did step away pretty quickly. If it did happen it wouldn't make me step away. What we are trying to do is too important. The future of the club is too important to all of us to be scared off.
Jack Irvine's remuneration package was also discussed at the fan meeting but he immediately denied the figures mentioned. He also said that Scott Murdoch was "demented". Do you have any comment on that?
AW – The allegation is that his package is around £40,000 per month for the first couple of months and then a lower sum per month subsequently, with a bonus for achieving the re-election of the old board members Mr Easdale and Mr Stockbridge. Scott is one of the least demented guys I've ever met. It seems Mr Irvine has refused to clarify exactly what the deal is. He's said it's not accurate but won't tell the fans what is.
Mediahouse and Jack Irvine have been involved with the club for many years and there has been criticism from the fans that they have failed to defend the club and fans. Do you feel that is an issue?
AW – I don't have any experience of Mediahouse personally, but what we've seen over the last couple of years is defences of individuals, insufficient defence of the club and some not necessarily acting in the club's best interests. We've also seen a lot of spin. Some of the comments Green made (Dallas Cowboys, Manchester United etc) have done nothing to enhance the reputation of the club.
You spoke passionately the other night about the need to defend the club. Has that been lacking?
AW – As far as I'm concerned Rangers need to re-establish their reputation of integrity and trust but also defend ourselves when things are said that are fundamentally misleading, untruthful or demonising. If we do something wrong and deserve to be criticised then fine but if not then we need to defend ourselves robustly. Also, when we do things well, we should highlight that. The fans protests recently are an example, it's easy for these things to get out of hand but the fans have conducted themselves with dignity, despite a difficult situation, and made their feelings known in a positive fashion.
You have mentioned the need for fan representation in your Rangers Constitution which was published on Tuesday. How do we get there?
AW – We've committed to fan representation on the board. How we get there is going to be interesting. We need to find a democratic way to get that representation and ensure transparency and a direct link with the fans. But in addition to that we need to create a much more structured way of interacting with the fans on an ongoing basis. We've all come from the fan base and we need to ensure an ongoing debate with the fans. We want regular meetings, allowing representatives access to some sensitive information and building trust again. The fans have kept the club alive for over 140 years; they are what make the club tick.
What are your views on Dave King?
AW – I think his involvement would be good for the club. He's prepared to invest. I think he'll wait until the dust settles after the AGM and see where things lie. We'd be very happy to work with him.
Is there anything else you want to add?
AW – We understand that after everything the fans have been through in the past couple of years there will be a degree of cynicism. But we have made a number of pledges in the Rangers Constitution which we take very seriously. They include safeguarding the stadium, ensuring directors won't have any financial interest in club contracts, and salaries and bonuses being approved by a remuneration committee and subject to benchmarking. We want the club run properly. We are not going to take any money, fees, nothing until we are back in Europe. Money is not the interest for us. These principles are intended to restore traditional values of trust, transparency and integrity that have been severely lacking recently.
You can read more from the nominee directors in an exclusive interview with Scott Murdoch over at our friends on CRO here http://www.thecoplandroad.org/2013/12/exclusive-cro-talks-with-board-nominee.html