18 March 2014

Posing the Question of Alexander Easdale

by Graham Taylor | Guest Contributor

I’ll be the first to admit that when the name of Sandy Easdale was first mooted as having a possible involvement at Rangers in November 2012 I didn’t know the first thing about him, as no doubt many that do not live in the central belt probably didn’t either. Handily though, the Daily Record were quick to point people in the direction of Mr Easdale’s somewhat questionable business past with an article entitled “Bus tycoon Sandy Easdale who was jailed over VAT fraud is courted as possible investor at Ibrox”.

Taken at face value at a time when the club was needing to regain its credibility following the disastrous insolvency experience under the stewardship of Craig Whyte, I, like many, was aghast at the thought of an individual with an equally-dubious business background to that of Whyte being involved at the club. It was noticeable from the story that the Rangers spokesman at the time felt it necessary to give direct comment on the possible involvement of Easdale at the club. Looking back it is clear that, even from that early stage, Sandy Easdale was being lined up for a prominent role at the club.

As the beginnings of a boardroom turf war started to creep its way into the spotlight Sandy and his brother James joined the embattled Charles Green in the Directors' Box for the friendly against Linfield. It was around this time that Green was feeling the heat for his links to Craig Whyte and the fallout from his racist remarks in a Sunday newspaper interview, so with the focus firmly on Green it was perhaps an ideal opportunity for the Easdale brothers to be seen with the man firmly in the public domain.

Days later, Green resigned his post as Chief Executive of the club. A few days beyond that, it was announced by BBC Scotland’s Chris McLaughlin that James Easdale–and not Sandy–would be buying the seven percent shareholding held by Green. Now, given what we know now, why was it James that was announced as the man looking to buy the sizeable shareholding and not Sandy who has been largely the main figure at the club in recent times? And why was it claimed by McLaughlin that the brothers held a shareholding far in-excess of what they could possibly have held then and still do to this day?

Coincidentally, it became common knowledge around this time that Jack Irvine had become the Easdale brothers’ personal PR representative. This led to the infamous interview where Sandy and, to a lesser extent, James laid out their vision for Rangers going forward to BBC Scotland’s Chief Football Correspondent whilst sitting in one of their buses. For businessmen hoping to be taken seriously in their objective of securing board representation, it was an abjectly embarrassing episode. 

Sure enough and even with a relatively small level of shareholding James Easdale was given a non-executive Director role on the plc board. Sandy would have to wait a few weeks later for his role on the Ltd company board, which he was later named Chairman of with the remit to run the business side of the club that the plc board did not run day-to-day. Sandy was subsequently asked in an interview with STV’s Peter Smith if he felt his conviction for VAT Fraud in 1997 contributed to him being unable to take a role on the plc board. He denied this was the case and said it was his decision to not take up a role on the plc board.

It was widely discussed in October last year, none more so than by the former Scotsman journalist Tom English in an amusing parody, that Easdale did not wish for Dave King to be involved at the club and that Easdale’s PR representative had been briefing journalists that King’s potential involvement would be vetoed by the relevant authorities. 

King himself admitted last month that his recent discussions with a view to investing in the club were held with Easdale and not the Chief Executive Graham Wallace or the Chairman of the Investment Committee Norman Crighton. King has since said that had it not been for fan pressure then the board would not have met with him in the last few days. 

Now what possible problem would Sandy Easdale have with a committed fan investor such as Dave King being involved in the restoration of Rangers? If he’s as big a supporter as he claims to be then getting King involved is a no-brainer, but if the above is true then it seems Easdale is continually putting obstacles in the way of King getting in the door. Why?

The question that many would pose is just what purpose does Rangers Football Club hold for Mr Alexander Easdale?

Does he see the club as a passionate hobby and is involved to assist the club in its return to its rightful place?

Does he see Rangers as a commercial opportunity to make a profit from, as is the case with the various institutional investors?

Or does he see his involvement as a chance to create a public profile that would give him the type of status that is indicative of others with similar wealth in Scotland? And with the added bonus of providing him with a less-than-dubious prefix to his name when being discussed in media circles, unlike the “ex-con” he was described as in the above Daily Record article prior to his involvement at the club?

The questions surrounding Easdale don’t end there. For instance, why has he decided that Craig Houston from the Sons of Struth or the GersNet site is more deserving of litigation proceedings than the fans of lesser clubs or frequenters of bus and coach forums who constantly label him with the same terms? Why have his solicitors Levy McRae issued legal letters for and demanded immediate cessation on Rangers fan forums only and not targeted these various other football and travel sites? One Google search will confirm that this is the case, yet he has chosen to make an example of an ordinary Rangers supporter, as Alexander also claims to be. Why?

Why did he claim in the interview with Peter Smith that he had investors lined up to invest in Rangers if need be? If so, why were these investors not approached prior to him providing a loan facility that is secured against valuable tangible assets such as Edmiston House and the Albion car park? Did these investors even exist or was it just bluster for the cameras?

With the voting rights of Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita Funds Holding Trust still registered in his name does he still have a binding agreement to purchase the remainder of Charles Green’s shareholding as per the Media House press release of 30th August 2013, an acquisition which would take him over the concert party threshold of 29.9 percent? And given his good relationship with the individuals behind these trusts, why won’t he come to an agreement with them to publicly reveal their identities to allay fears that certain individuals with alleged criminal activities are involved?

For all the questions there are over Sandy Easdale’s involvement at Rangers, there is one that stands out more than most: If the institution that is Rangers means as much to him as he claims, why is that everything he has done in his time in the limelight appears to be to the detriment of what the vast majority consider to be in the best interests of Rangers Football Club? 

And does he even care...?