DAVE King has expressed his desire to deliver “truth and reconciliation” to Rangers supporters in the wake of his emphatic success at the long-anticipated general meeting of shareholders.
The South Africa-based businessman swept into power with over 85 per cent of the vote yesterday, along with his fellow nominees as directors Paul Murray and John Gilligan, as Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley’s associates Derek Llambias and Barry Leach were both ousted.
King will not formally take up a position on the new board until he has satisfied ‘fit and proper’ criteria with both the stock exchange and the Scottish FA. But the 60-year-old will begin work immediately on the recovery process necessary at Rangers after almost four years of relentless financial uncertainty and chaotic corporate management.
King has pledged to find answers and bring closure in a saga which already sees five of those involved – former owner Craig Whyte, Paul Clark, David Whitehouse and David Grier of administrators Duff and Phelps and former company secretary Gary Withey – under criminal investigation.
Many Rangers supporters wish to see the net cast even wider and King is determined to bring them some degree of justice. “The supporters have been the victims in this, a thousand per cent,” said King. “If we look at it and feel anyone has behaved in a manner that was either criminally or civilly liable, then we are giving a commitment to deal with it in the interests of transparency.
“It’s not about having a witch hunt but it’s important for the fans that we find out what actually went on. There’s allegations about money and kickbacks and we really have to look at that.
“It’s a little bit like South Africa with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which came out after apartheid in 1994. It was a good thing for people to air things and finally put it behind them – I think the Rangers fans need a bit of truth and reconciliation to get some understanding of what happened in the last four years.
“It’s important in terms of lessons to be learned. We’ve given a commitment about transparency and accountability and that has to happen.
“If anything has gone on that is untoward, we must make sure there is accountability for that. That’s about people being held accountable if they have behaved badly.
“If it transpires that funds have left the club inappropriately and there is a possibility of recovering them, it would be in the club’s interests to recover them as quickly as possible. It will not be a witch hunt but it would be irresponsible of us not at least to look at some of the things that have gone on in the last couple of years.
“We will do it ourselves first of all, we’re experienced enough in business to look at contracts and understand them. If one has concern about a specific contract then it’s best one passes it onto someone who is forensic and independent. Initially, however, it should be ourselves to review the commercial contracts and commercial consequences.”
Yesterday’s meeting lasted less than 15 minutes with neither Llambias or Leach attending. Both men were removed from the board, while King, Murray and Gilligan were each approved as new directors, all by around 85 per cent of the vote. After an immediate meeting of the new board, businessman and former Hearts director Douglas Park was also appointed as a director of the club.
Prior to the meeting, it was also announced that Sandy Easdale’s share of voting right had been reduced from over 26 per cent to just over 20 per cent, further lessening the strength of opposition to King. Easdale remains as chairman of the non-executive football club board at Rangers but when asked if the Greenock businessman had any future in the role, King replied: “My personal view is that it would be challenging.”
King’s regime also have to confront the legacy of Ashley’s boardroom influence and the potentially onerous retain contracts and loan agreements with Sports Direct.
“I’m not scared of what we are going to find,” said King. “Instinctively, one doesn’t expect to find it an impossible mess. The club has been in such a difficult situation you can’t imagine there are a lot of creditors who have loaned money and not been paid.
“I would imagine there may be opportunities there but I’m not expecting anything dramatic other than what we know. It’s financially challenged but I think the club is far from being in a crisis.
“I’ve heard from one person I regard as fairly reliable who has seen some of the contracts and he has told me we won’t find anything untoward when we look at the Mike Ashley contracts.
“He said the best we’ll find is someone who is commercially aggressive and has out-negotiated the people who were on the board. If that’s the case, then good luck to him. Others have said it’s not that simple and we’ll find that, through the use of individuals and peer pressure on the board, it wasn’t a simple negotiation but a bias in his favour. If that’s the case, then we’d have to look at that very carefully.
“If Mike Ashley is going to continue his relationship with the club and we assume his contracts are robust, we have to live with them and come to the conclusion they’re fairly balanced to the club and we let the fans know that, then they can resume spending.
“One of the reasons the fans aren’t spending on the kit is because they think a disproportionate amount is going to Mike Ashley. So it’s in his interests and he knows as we sit here today what we’re going to find when we get there.
“If he’s confident there’s nothing untoward, then it’s better for him and for us to go to the fans and say, ‘Listen, we’ve seen the contracts, we’ve heard all the noise level but we can live with them’.
“That’s good for Mike Ashley and we’ll tell the fans to buy the kit again because enough of the money is coming back to the club.”
King also claimed to be relaxed about Rangers’ stock market listing after shares were suspended earlier in the week following the resignation of WH Ireland as the club’s nominated advisor (Nomad). He expects his own Nomad to be in place imminently and that trading will quickly be resumed, although he does not regard it as a priority.
“The Nomad is not an issue and whether Rangers is listed is not an issue,” added King. “What we had to do was change the board and get board control. The listing is irrelevant. The listing doesn’t affect the players, it doesn’t affect the needs of the club, it doesn’t affect the culture, it is something that only affects a specific group of investors of which there are very few right now.
“The listing was just noise level from the other side because they didn’t have much in the way of real argument to put forward.”
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