DEREK Llambias jetted into Glasgow tonight and praised Mike Ashley’s track record as he deflected questions from waiting journalists.
The former Newcastle United managing director touched down on a flight from Gatwick at 8pm ahead of discussions with the Rangers board on Tuesday.
Llambias is a close ally of Magpies owner Ashley and is now expected to replace Graham Wallace as chief executive following the latter’s resignation on Monday morning.
Ashley has tightened his grip on the Ibrox outfit after the club’s board were forced to accept his £2million loan offer, although the Scottish Football Association is now set to ask the club to clarify the Londoner’s involvement.
The 50-year-old is prohibited from owning more than 10 per cent of Rangers while he remains in charge at St James’ Park after he signed an agreement with the Scottish Football Association three years ago.
Llambias tried to dodge reporters’ questions as he arrived at Glasgow Airport, but did insist that the Sports Direct tycoon’s credentials are sound.
He said: “Mike Ashley has got a great track record, but I can’t give you any comment. I’d love to, but I can’t.”
Under stock exchange rules, Llambias, whose business background includes work in the entertainment and leisure sectors, will have to go through an application process before he can be appointed as Rangers’ new chief executive.
He added: “I’ve been invited up here to have discussions with the board and I’m one of many applicants, but I’m sorry, I can’t give you any more than that.
“I’m here until (the board) need to see me.”
The League One champions confirmed former Manchester City executive Wallace’s departure in a 7am statement to the Stock Exchange.
In a separate release made to the AIM - a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange - the crisis-hit club also announced it had accepted the £2million loan offer which effectively hands control to Ashley.
As part of the deal, Ashley has won the right to replace Wallace and former finance director Philip Nash, who resigned on Friday, with his own directors.
Llambias is the first arrival, with reports suggesting Stephen Mucklow, another of Ashley’s right-hand men, will follow soon after.
Wallace was brought in as chief executive last November by PLC chairman David Somers to lead the restructuring of the club.
He was criticised by the fans for failing to reveal the true state of the club’s fragile finances, and also found himself at odds with football board chairman Sandy Easdale - who controls a significant 26 per cent stake through shares and proxies - as he tried to push through a £16million rescue package being offered by former oldco director Dave King.
Easdale, though, was determined to forge an alliance with Ashley, who has now got his way.
Nash, Wallace’s only board ally, resigned on Friday after it became apparent Ashley’s victory was inevitable.
The Stock Exchange statement on his departure said: “The directors would like to thank Graham for his contribution to the club during a difficult period.
“The board has commenced the search for a chief executive officer. A further announcement will be made in due course.”
Wallace’s exit sparked rumours that boss Ally McCoist could be next out of the Ibrox door.
But the manager confirmed he had been given assurances his job was safe, while Easdale added: “He is the manager and he continues to be the manager. We have not got any ideas of changing the manager. That is not on the agenda.”
News of Wallace’s resignation from his £315,000-a-year role was swiftly followed by confirmation of Ashley’s £2million interest-free loan.
It will give Rangers some much-needed breathing space following rumours the club were due to run out of cash on Tuesday.
Magpies chief Ashley - who owns 8.92 per cent of the Glasgow giants - saw off a late bid by Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy to put forward his own emergency loan facility and now has the Ibrox club in his grasp.
Ashley already runs the club’s retail division and holds naming rights to the stadium. The terms of his loan now give him security over the Albion Car Park and Edmiston House facilities on the doorstep of Ibrox.
Easdale told STV that Ashley’s involvement would bring the club some much-needed stability, saying: “The PLC board have done their duty and due diligence accordingly and I would say they have done what is in the best interests of the fans, the club and the shareholders.
“I would hope this brings some stability to the club. We have got to look forward now.
“I can only say we have got somebody who is interested in helping the club and we can only look at it as a positive.
“As far as I’m concerned (Ashley) wants to help the club. He has not intimated (that he wants total control) to me.”