David Somers - Making a Statement
- 06 December 2013
I'll admit to being initially uneasy about the appointment of David Somers. It appeared a rushed decision; there was very little clarity on why he had been appointed, by whom and what the process was for his recruitment. However, until his 'open letter' today I was genuinely willing to give him a chance. We have seen several appallingly constructed, misleading, aggressive, embarrassing and amateurish statements issued in the name of the board since Jack Irvine was once again handed the PR reigns at Rangers but today's was perhaps as demoralising as they come.
Somers didn't get off to a good start in his Rangers career. In his 'open letter' today he all but admits that his appointment was a necessity to stave off the threat of share suspension by AIM, given the shambles the club was left in with the departures of Brian Smart, Ian Hart and Craig Mather. I found his statement in the AGM documentation at best disingenuous. He insinuates there may be problems with AIM and the SFA relating to the appointment of the nominee directors. This is nonsense. We've seen it before when Dave King was offered a place on the board by Craig Mather (who was then hastily removed) and it is straight out of Jack Irvine's box of tricks. Only the club can apply to the SFA for clearance for a new director. If the board were concerned they could check now, but they seem to prefer to pretend there could be an issue. The same is true of AIM. All the nominee directors have already been cleared by Cenkos. There is no reasonable or likely impediment to them taking a place on the board.
Somers today managed to write his open letter without addressing any of the valid questions posed to him by the nominee directors in interviews conducted earlier in the week. Who appointed him? How was he recruited? Why as an 'independent' chairman has he not attempted to engage with a large, disgruntled group of shareholders who back the nominees? The natural thing for him to do would have been to at least try to find a compromise; instead he launched a spirited defence of two toxic figures, still clinging to their overpaid jobs within Ibrox, and launched another attack on the representatives of at least 28% of the club's shareholders.
I can't be the only person who sat open-mouthed reading about how we all owe Brian Stockbridge "a debt of gratitude for holding things together". I'm unsure how Mr Somers came to this conclusion? If Stockbridge has in fact "held things together", then he's been spectacularly well remunerated for it, so I'd suggest we owe him nothing. However, I'd also contend he has done nothing of the sort. Was it necessary for Stockbridge to mislead the fans in order to "hold things together"? Did he have to tell us there are no commissions or fees on commercial contracts at the club even though there are? Did he have to tell us that he had no idea how much IPO money was left, only to reveal to the Sun newspaper the following day that it had all been spent? Did he have to video a colleague in a moment of bad judgement and then place that video into the hands of a man who was willing to leak it on the internet? Did he have to tell fan groups he would get more detail on the unexplained and sky high IPO costs but then do nothing of the sort?
Somers is being advised incredibly badly if he thinks that Stockbridge is ever going to morph into an acceptable figure to either a large block of the club's shareholders or the vast majority of the club's support. Being the last executive director standing and therefore being the only impediment to shares being de-listed is not a skill. It is also not a reason for gratitude when that situation has been manufactured. Mather could have been retained and Stockbridge removed. But of course Mather might have got Dave King onto the board and we couldn't have that could we?
And talking of incredibly bad advice.....If Somers' defence of Stockbridge was badly judged then his apparent support for Jack Irvine was a disaster. Irvine is probably the one truly unifying figure in this boardroom battle. Nobody, whether convinced by the nominee directors or not, wants Irvine infesting our club for a minute longer. Irvine cut his teeth in the tabloids and his invective was all over Somers' statement. "Bogeymen", "Gang of Four", "fanatics". This, ladies and gentlemen, is your new Rangers chairman.
Irvine denied on Twitter that he had any hand in the letter, but frankly very few fans believe a word he says. I certainly don't. If indeed the statement was Somers' own work then I think we should all be rather concerned about a chairman who sees bogeymen everywhere he looks. Let's be clear on this David, in case you genuinely don't understand the issue with Irvine. This is a man who has taken money from our club over the past seven or so years without once using his considerable (mainly unpleasant) talents to actually help the club or the fans. This is a man who said of the Greatest Ever Ranger, John Greig, that he was "stupid and contributes nothing". This is a man who, it has been alleged, assisted Craig Whyte to pull the wool over the eyes of anyone looking into his past, smoothing the way for his disastrous pillaging of our club.
Somers tells us that Irvine's contract is "normal". How about telling us what it is then? Is 35k for two months and then 10k a month for the remaining ten months what you consider normal? Is it more than that? Is it less than that? Somers' claims Irvine is not getting a bonus, others have said he is. Are we supposed to take his word for it? Bonus or not, does Mr Somers believe that money is well spent on a man whose only job is to defend the positions of Brian Stockbridge and the Easdales? What exactly are the club getting out of this arrangement? Irvine's every utterance brings embarrassment on the Rangers. Somers tells us in his letter that the board are "fully behind improving the communication and engagement with fans". Why is it then, about 10 minutes after the letter was published, that Mr Irvine was insulting fans on Twitter for daring to challenge his propaganda?
Somers described the suggestion that he might not be independent as "wild and spurious". He then went on to give a fantastic impression of someone who couldn't have been more one eyed on the current boardroom situation if he tried. Where is the dialogue Mr Somers? Why are you not engaging with all the shareholders? He alluded to the problems faced by the club today being Malcolm Murray's fault but Stockbridge was relieved of responsibility. He spoke of the nominees suggesting that his board would sell Ibrox. To my knowledge they have done nothing of the sort. They have simply stated that they would pledge to never do so – a considerably more unequivocal statement than "we are not thinking about this."
Somers tells us the nominee directors are driven by "personal interest". In the next paragraph he talks again of their "personal self interest". This doesn't stand up to any scrutiny. He is talking about the same people who have indicated they would work for free for as long they are directors. So what other self-interest is Mr Somers talking about? The nominee's have also made it clear in their Rangers Constitution that they will ensure directors have no interest in club contracts. So it can't be that. Can all our current directors say the same? Is Mr Somers going to work for free to help the club?
One wonders what new Chief Executive, Graham Wallace, thinks of all this. He's been spoken of very favourably by the nominee directors and one gets the feeling he might be attempting to avoid getting drawn into commenting on the board battle so that he can retain his position no matter what the outcome of the AGM. It does seem odd however that our Non-Executive Chairman is the one speaking out on club matters rather than the Chief Executive.
David Somers certainly made a statement today but I suspect it wasn't quite the one he was aiming for. The fans groups have responded saying he should meet them as a matter of urgency. It would be very useful for him to be disabused of the odd notion he seems to have on the suitability of some people to remain in the paid employ of the club. I'd suggest he takes up that offer and starts listening. He's off to a bad start.