BRIAN Stockbridge, the man widely regarded by Rangers supporters as central to the club’s latest financial problems, last night quit the Ibrox club.
The chartered accountant was appointed finance director at Rangers by Charles Green in June 2012 following the controversial Yorkshire businessman’s acquisition of the club’s business and assets following administration and liquidation.
Stockbridge remained in the post despite overseeing a loss of £14.4 million in the first 13 months of trading for the newly constituted club. Earlier this season, he admitted that Rangers would only have £1 million left in the bank by April.
His sudden exit comes as part of recently appointed chief executive Graham Wallace’s review of the club’s operations. Philip Nash, the former chief financial officer of Liverpool and Arsenal, will now take up Stockbridge’s role on a temporary basis. Nash had already been recruited by Wallace on a consultancy basis as he attempts to stabilise the club.
In a statement to the stock exchange announcing Stockbridge’s departure, Rangers were keen to stress that he has not received a pay-off. “Rangers announces that by mutual consent Brian Stockbridge is leaving the company and has resigned as a director of the company and its subsidiaries with immediate effect,” read the statement.
“Rangers confirm that no ex gratia benefit or bonus has been offered or paid to Brian Stockbridge in connection with the termination of his employment or office. The directors would like to thank Brian for his contribution to the club during a difficult period. The board has commenced the search for a new Finance Director. A further announcement will be made in due course.”
During the highly emotive build-up to Rangers annual general meeting in December, when a group of requisitioners led by former Ibrox director Paul Murray failed in their bid for boardroom change, Stockbridge was singled out for criticism.
A former executive at Zeus Capital, the company which funded Green’s purchase of the club from administrators Duff and Phelps in May 2012, Stockbridge was re-elected to the board at the agm but with the lowest percentage backing of any of the incumbent directors.
Stockbridge had attempted to appease those who regarded his position as untenable by agreeing to return the £200,000 bonus he was paid as part of his contract when Rangers won the Third Division title last season.But it has not been enough to preserve his position and his departure is a significant statement of intent from Wallace. The former Manchester City chief financial officer had promised his assessment of potential cost savings at the club would include looking at those in executive positions. Wallace has already seen a proposed 15 per cent salary cut for the Rangers first-team squad turned down by the League 1 leaders’ players. Manager Ally McCoist had previously agreed a reduction of around 50 per cent on his salary of £825,000 which was revealed in the club’s annual accounts last year.
Suggestions Rangers could be forced to go into administration again have been rebuffed by Wallace who, so far, has been generally well received by the support. He is scheduled to meet with the three main fans’ groups – the Rangers Supporters Association, Rangers Supporters Assembly and Rangers Supporters Trust – next Thursday.