What Now For Dave King?
- 30 October 2014
I criticised Dave King for not putting his money where his mouth was. Sadly this week his plan to invest £16m into Rangers (and a last minute bid by Brian Kennedy) was rejected by the Sandy Easdale bloc of shareholders in favour of a £2m loan from Mike Ashley. I am no business
genius, but judging by Mr King’s faltering campaign in trying to wrestle control, I wish I’d moved to South Africa in 1976, it must have had streets paved with gold.
His first mistake not buying shares. In 1977 Jack Gillespie, a car dealer of some renown, wanted to be a Director of Rangers. The problem for Jack was many of the existing Directors thought he wasn’t cut out to be a Rangers director (there was probably an element of snobbery in their opinion). Rangers shares at that time were not available publicly like today but Jack wasn’t going to take no for an answer. He slowly but surely went around buying small chunks of shares through his stockbroker or by personal contact. Jack paid over the odds for many of these shares but that didn't matter as he wanted a say in how the club he loved was run. Eventually Jack had enough of a shareholding, 20% to be exact, and the Rangers board could ignore him no longer as he was the largest shareholder. Mr Gillespie was appointed to the board and eventually became Vice Chairman, he served Rangers for 20 years. To date, as far as we know, Mr King doesn't own one share.
King’s second mistake, was not the season ticket trust, but the way the season ticket trust was set up. If Dave King had said “I will match the money put into the season ticket trust and buy shares with that amount" you'd have seen a queue of fans backing Mr King. “Ah, but there were no shares for sale” is often the retort. But money talks, every owner has its price and with a war chest of 35,000 season ticket holders at say roughly £430 each plus his own contribution, he’d have had a war chest of some £30 million to hold over the shareholders. £15m of season ticket money and £15m to buy shares. After the invention of the season ticket trust and publicity about him and Richard Gough being directors of the trust, he disappeared for the best part of six months and the season ticket trust disappeared with it.
Mistake number three was a complete lack of fan engagement. Where was his whistle-stop tour around supporters’ clubs explaining his vision? They would have welcomed him with open arms, given him a fair hearing and making up their minds accordingly. I reckon four supporters club meetings in the north, south, east and west of Scotland, one in Northern Ireland, four in England and a visit to NARSA in June and a visit to ORSA in March and he'd have covered almost everyone. Maybe even a couple of open meetings for supporters with no affiliation. The British tour could have been done within two weeks of his proposal but no, he went back to South Africa.
I wouldn't call Mr King any less charismatic than a certain Fergus McCann but that’s exactly what McCann did, he even having to step foot in Croy! He also engaged in face to face meetings with wealthy Celtic fans, has Mr King ever tried to engage with them? It seems to be a perennial Rangers problem: Trying to take over the club without trying to win over the fan base in the Blue Knights, Requisitioners and Dave King style. Thousands of Rangers fans are not on Twitter, Facebook or other social media. They do not read the Rangers Standard and rely on spin stories from either side in the Record, the BBC or the Herald. You can be damn sure they would have had a proper opinion if they’d met Mr King in the flesh at an evening in a local Rangers bar to hear his vision and how we as the fans were going to achieve it.
I completely understand his misgivings about buying out the people who have financially mismanaged the club but sadly that is exactly what Mr King had, and still has, to do. Divide and conquer, do a deal with the devil or any other business cliche written by the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, did and do still apply. Surely Mr King was never going to sell the shares again anyway so it was immaterial what price he paid for them? If he tried and was knocked back, then this is where his strategy let him badly down. He should have been shouting it from the rooftops that he was trying and was making offers for shares, instead, silence.
Did he honestly think Mr Nash and Mr Wallace had such sway over the rest of the board and the Easdale bloc that they were going to rubber stamp any proposition put to them? Did he honestly think the Easdale bloc were going to roll over without even more money lining their pockets and effectively hand control of the Club over to him?
I guess we will never know. Maybe Brian Kennedy was even the fall back position for Mr King, working in tandem, a £3m loan in return for a seat on the board and Kennedy to become the inside man?
Mike Ashley is not liked by many, but those who do like him have made an awful lot of money on his coattails be it through buying shares in his companies or being rewarded royally for loyalty in his blitzkrieg rise to the top of the sports leisure wear market in a period of 32 years. It is my belief that the rest of the shareholders, who do not give a stuff about anything else other than making money, are waiting for that return on their loyalty and will be well rewarded when Mr Ashley is delivered the keys to the Ibrox kingdom in its totality or is the man with access to people who may be interested in buying a football Club for less money than they would have to pay for Newcastle United.
Sandy Easdale has said Mike Ashley has never stated he wanted full control, well Mr Easdale it looks to me that he has it already. He has the ability to point his own CEO and FD in return for a £2m loan secured against the Albion and Edmiston House, cheap at half the price. Ashley’s tactics are distasteful, disgraceful and disgusting but maybe that’s why he’s got a private jet and we don’t. There is no doubt he is being helped by a board and a bloc of shareholders who feel they are going to be given one mighty loyalty hand shake and a diamond studded Sports Direct giant mug from MJW Ashley very soon. There is the SFA question about owning two clubs, but I feel sure a Sports Direct Scottish Premiership sponsorship deal would concentrate a few minds on the SFA board.
It’s also interesting to note that Mr Llambias who is being touted as replacement for Graham Wallace has already received a nice payment from Rangers Football Club. He is a director of Keith Bishop Public Relations Ltd and, as exposed by Rangers Standard colleague, Chris Graham, Rangers paid £100,000 per annum to Keith Bishop Public Relations before Philip Nash agreed the termination of the contract.
So what does the ordinary Rangers fan do? Many Rangers fans poo poo fan ownership schemes, and this article is not a plug for them, but what alternative do you have? Portsmouth are now completely debt free with their scheme, as are Stirling Albion, and a fan owned club sit seven points ahead of us in the league. However, one thing I would like those in charge of such a scheme to consider is a coming together to make them a stronger voting bloc. Engage with the other 12% of Rangers fans who are also shareholders and perhaps set up a shareholders association?
Not many people come out with any credit but one who has is George Letham. I do not know George personally, but I could point him out to you in the street. I bet you he's the type of man who wishes none of us knew who he was, but he helped bail out the club with a £1m loan. I don't know but I guess George is also a shareholder. Maybe George, even now, is phoning Mr King and telling him to become a shareholder too.
We can only hope that Mr King, like Mr Gillespie previously, is now using his £16m to actually go and buy shares off or on market. Maybe he is preparing a coherent vision for the club and preparing to set off in his King Mobile to present it. Perhaps even now he is going to engage with fans in discussions about future fan ownership funding. We can hope, but the reality is it can’t be long before you will it be getting a Sports Direct mug along with your season ticket and Rangers Club Membership.
Graham McLaren is a member of Rangers First and the Rangers Supporters Trust and can be followed on twitter @Gazborangers