WALTER Smith has vowed to take a hands-on role as the new Rangers chairman after being charged with the daunting task of stabilising boardroom affairs at the troubled Ibrox club.
The 65-year-old former manager took up the non-executive role, replacing Malcolm Murray, after a Wednesday night meeting of directors in London, which had been called in a bid to address recent acrimonious divisions on the board.
Murray, who had survived previous attempts to remove him as chairman, stepped down at the meeting, which saw Smith unanimously elected as the new chairman.
Smith said: “Although I have been on the board for some months this will be another departure for me but there are enough directors around to make sure we will make the kind of progress necessary and which our fans want.
“Unity among the directors is vital. We must all be on the same page as often as possible. We won’t always agree but Rangers, this club and our fans must always come first.
“It is a great honour to be asked to take up this position and it goes without saying that I feel proud as well as humble. However, no one should believe that I see my role as a passive one. That hasn’t been my way in the past and it won’t be my way in the future.”
Smith, who won 21 major honours in two spells as Rangers manager, had been considering his own position on the board but his new role was confirmed in a brief statement to the Stock Exchange shortly after 3pm
“The Rangers International Football Club plc today announced that Walter Smith has been appointed non-executive chairman of the board,” it read. “Walter Smith is widely acknowledged as the club’s most successful manager. Under his leadership, the club enjoyed two immensely productive spells.”
Murray said after the anoucement: “After a year as chairman throughout a period which has probably been the most turbulent in Rangers’ history, I have decided to step down from my role so that our former manager, Walter Smith, can succeed me.
“Walter, who certainly doesn’t need any recommendation from me, has my support and I believe he can bring stability and focus to the club.”
Smith becomes the first man in Rangers’ history to serve as both manager and chairman of the club. Two of his predecessors as manager, the iconic duo of Bill Struth and Willie Waddell, both became vice-chairman of Rangers in their later years.
Smith will be regarded as a unifying figure by the vast majority of Rangers supporters. A boyhood supporter of the club, Smith first moved to Ibrox in 1986 as assistant manager to Graeme Souness. When Souness left to join Liverpool in 1991, Smith replaced him and enjoyed a hugely successful first spell which included guiding Rangers to their record-equalling ninth consecutive league championship win in 1997.
Smith left the following year, after it was announced he would be replaced by Dick Advocaat. He then spent almost four years as Everton manager, being dismissed by the Goodison Park club in March 2002. After a temporary stint as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Smith became Scotland manager in December 2004 and revived the fortunes of the
national team before being tempted back to Ibrox in January 2007. He had further success, including a Uefa Cup final in 2008 and three consecutive SPL titles from 2009 to 2011 before he handed the manager’s role over to assistant Ally McCoist.
In the wake of Rangers’
administration and subsequent liquidation last year, Smith fronted a consortium including businessmen Jim McColl and Douglas Park in a failed bid to take control of the club. Last November, he accepted then chief executive Charles Green’s invitation to return as a non-executive director. Green resigned as chief executive last month and has agreed in principle to sell his shareholding to Greenock businessmen James and Sandy Easdale, owners of McGills Buses.
Blue Pitch Holdings, one of the original investors in Green’s consortium last May, has called for an extraordinary general meeting to remove Murray and non-executive director Phil Cartmell and replace them with James Easdale and Green’s associate Chris
Morgan. So far, Rangers have yet to call an egm as they “assess the validity” of the request.
Earlier yesterday, Rangers declared the findings of their independent investigation into the alleged collaboration of
discredited former chairman and owner Craig Whyte with the purchase of the club’s business and assets fronted by Charles Green last May. Whyte,
in conjunction with his business associate Aiden Earley, is threatening legal action against Rangers for “breach of contract, conspiracy and deceit”.
But in a statement to the Stock Exchange, Rangers said the investigation conducted by legal firm Pinsent Masons and chaired by QC Roy Martin found “no evidence” of any involvement by Whyte in the company (Sevco Scotland Ltd) with which Green purchased Rangers. The statement did not specifically address Whyte’s claim that he was behind the Sevco 5088 Ltd company which Green initially fronted in the bid to take control. It read: “On behalf of Rangers International Football Club plc, the non-executive directors of the company (the “Investigation Committee”) engaged the law firm Pinsent Masons LLP to investigate the connections between Craig Whyte and former and current personnel of the company and its subsidiaries (the “Investigation”).
“The Investigation was overseen by Roy Martin QC. The Investigation concluded on 17 May 2013 and Pinsent Masons and Roy Martin QC have reported to the Investigation Committee. The Investigation Committee is satisfied that a thorough investigation was conducted despite the inherent limitations of a private inquiry.
“Based on the assessment of the available evidence, the company considers that the Investigation found no evidence that Craig Whyte had any involvement with Sevco Scotland Limited (now called The Rangers Football Club Limited), the company which ultimately acquired the business and assets of The Rangers Football Club PLC; nor which would suggest that Craig Whyte invested in The Rangers Football Club Limited or Rangers International Football Club plc, directly or indirectly.
“On 28 May 2013, a letter before claim was sent to (inter alia) The Rangers Football Club Limited and Rangers International Football Club plc on behalf of Craig Whyte, Aidan Earley and (purportedly) Sevco 5088 Limited. The Rangers Football Club Limited and Rangers International Football Club plc will be preparing a robust response. However, given that legal proceedings are threatened in the letter before claim, it would not be appropriate to make public any further content from the report or to comment further.”