30 October 2013

The Rangers Minefield

"Daniel Stewart & Co - The Small Company Advisor"
by Chris Graham | Contributor

Last week, Paul Shackleton of Rangers’ third AIM Nominated Advisor (Nomad) in a year, Daniel Stewart, stated that he was “trying to map out a path through the (Rangers) minefield”. The short interview appears perfectly reasonable in itself but the continued inaction, at the very least, in appointing Dave King to the Ibrox board is becoming concerning. 

Not only do the board and our current Nomad appear to be dragging their feet, but the usual suspects in the press and rival supporters are using the uncertainty to whip up a storm over the prospect of King taking a place on the Rangers board.

Given what has happened over the past few months it is perhaps understandable for Shackleton to liken dealing with the Rangers board to navigating a minefield. It has already claimed several directorial victims as well as brokers and a pair of Shackleton’s Nomads-in-arms. There has been a huge amount of upheaval but actually, if anything, the loss of almost all the current board members should have made things simpler for Daniel Stewart.

The Nomad currently finds a situation where there are only two directors on the board who appear to be backed by around 24 percent of the shareholders. The Easdales have the proxies of Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita to add to their own holdings and possibly the residue of shares held by Charles Green and Imran Ahmad. A further 28 percent-plus of shareholders have nominated Paul Murray, Malcolm Murray, Alex Wilson and Scott Murdoch to represent them. Furthermore, if public statements are taken at face value, we appear to have in Dave King a chairman who is acceptable to all sides of the shareholder battle and who unites the fans and represents a source of crucial future investment.

So where is the issue? The board has only two members. If Dave King and the four proposed non executive directors were appointed then that would leave the board with seven members. A Chief Executive and a Commercial Director being recruited would take that to nine and form a board which has representatives of the major shareholder blocks and fresh talent on the executive staff.

So why has Paul Shackleton at Daniel Stewart not yet processed the documentation that Dave King filled in when Craig Mather went to meet him in South Africa? For weeks there appears to have been a delay in progressing that. Also why are moves not being made to appoint the Non-Executive directors who represent the institutional shareholders? Surely trust, competency and broad shareholder representation are crucial to the desired “stability” spoken of by Shackleton?

So whilst we sit and wait, in an apparent void of activity and information, the tide of negative press coverage against Dave King continues. The reporting of his tax settlement has been nothing short of a disgrace in certain quarters of the media. Pandering to the frothing of Celtic fans and their useful idiots who see King as a serious threat to their current dominance appears to be the order of the day.

We have seen various accusations. Graham Spiers and his “grisly list of felonies” came first. Tom English has now joined him by stating that King was convicted of “non payment of tax”. When these inaccuracies are challenged, and information is provided on what the actual charges were and how the settlement was reached, suddenly there is Twitter silence. A regular on Twitter (@JJMNJ) has provided them both with the relevant section of the act used to fine King. Oddly enough, nowhere does it mention “non payment of tax” or “felonies”. The section is reproduced below but don’t expect either of them to reference it or explain themselves. They don’t want to know. 

The section at issue in Dave King's crimes against humanity.

More seriously, Roy Greenslade, the Irish Republican friend of Phil MacGiollabhain, took to his Guardian blog to accuse King of “tax evasion”. We got this kind of rubbish a lot about Rangers last year from various similar sources. It was proven to be nonsense about Rangers and is nonsense about King. Any charges relating to fraud or “tax evasion” were dropped. Greenslade had better hope that King regards him as an irrelevance.

The point of all this, of course, is to put pressure on the SFA to block King’s appointment to the Rangers board. It is completely ignored that the SFA have complete discretion on whether to ratify or block any board appointment. They have guidelines but every case is examined on its merits. There is no hard and fast rule. Even a cursory examination of either the charges from South Africa or the SFA rules would have appraised people of these facts but still we hear that the SFA “would have to break their own rules” to allow King on. More nonsense.

The press and internet warrior outrage at King is an obvious a sign of how much he is feared as being a force for good at Rangers. That is just one reason why Daniel Stewart should be doing everything they can to facilitate King’s swift appointment to the board. Why it is taking them so long to do so should have alarm bells ringing, and these alarms are made louder by stories of the board’s own expensive PR consultants briefing against King. Is the board dragging its feet? Do Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita — whose identities are still shrouded in mystery — not want King on the board? 

What possible reason could anyone with the good of Rangers at heart have for blocking King? I suspect Paul Shackleton would be happy to avoid the necessity of any further press enquiry but if he continues to drag his feet then he might find himself standing on a metaphorical mine rather than navigating through the Rangers ‘minefield’.