DCSIMG

Rangers agm: Jeers, outbursts and expletives

Shareholders make their way into the stadium. Picture: Robert Perry

Shareholders make their way into the stadium. Picture: Robert Perry

  • by ANDY NEWPORT
 

Under-fire financial director Brian Stockbridge bore the brunt as angry Rangers fans grilled the club’s board during a stormy annual general meeting.

The man who presided over a £14.4 million loss in the 13 months up to June was booed every time he spoke as he faced a string of accusing questions about his performance.

Disgruntled shareholders also demanded answers on whether discredited former owner Craig Whyte and controversial former chief executive Charles Green were still involved behind the scenes.

Also discussed were the club’s commercial deals and the future of Ibrox – while one fan even asked chairman David Somers to consider appointing a church minister to keep the peace in the boardroom.

But it was Stockbridge who was targeted time and again by the seething support. The 39-year-old defended the cost of setting up the IPO share issue, which raised £22m for the club 12 months ago.

Stockbridge – who received 65.3 per cent backing - said: “The costs of the fundraising were over £6.5m. Half of this relates to the pre-IPO acquisition of the club and half relates to the IPO itself. Both were quite expensive but we need to recognise the club was in a very unfortunate position.

“It was in administration and had no licence to play, so it was a risky investment. I was not brought in here to win a popularity contest. Hard financial decisions had to be made. One of those was to pay the fees that were necessary to secure the club.”

Another supporter – who said he was a managing director of a large US investment bank – claimed the funds had disappeared into a “black hole”.

But Stockbridge – who had to repay a £200,000 bonus to retain the support of major shareholder Laxey Partners – countered with a breakdown of the spending.

“I can’t go into all the details but commission for raising the funds at five per cent broadly, so that was £2m,” he said. “Legal fees were £600,000, accounting and valuation fees £500,000. Creating the prospectus and the registrar was £328,000. PR fees of £100,000 and financial advisory fees of £2.5m.”

Next on the attack was George Letham, who quizzed Stockbridge about a clause in his contract entitling him to share options worth £500,000 – two and a half times his salary. “Yes I’m entitled to shares as set out in the prospectus,” he said. “But because of everything that has happened in the club, I have not taken them so far.”

Some of the angriest outbursts came as the board was asked to defend the use of public relations contractor Jack Irvine following a leaked email in which he allegedly insulted former Rangers captain and manager John Greig.

Somers – whose attempts at humour went down like a lead balloon with the 1,500-strong audience – revealed Irvine had since sent a “full apology” to the man voted the greatest ever Ranger but that failed to stop a string of expletive-filled tirades being directed at the top table.

The chairman rebuffed new attempts to discover the people behind secretive and initial investors Blue Pitch and Margarita holdings, who handed their votes to football club director Sandy Easdale. “They want to remain private,” Somers said. “These people are apparently extremely wealthy and obviously they trust Sandy with their proxies.”

The chairman also insisted the ruling regime had not leaked results of the agm poll ahead of the meeting, but was met with another uproar as one fan shouted: “There’s more leaks in that boardroom than the fruit market.”

Somers did gain some ground with stakeholders when he insisted Rangers would not sell and lease back Ibrox, while each member of the board took it in turn to promise neither Whyte nor Green had any influence over the club, with chief executive Graham Wallace adding: “There is no one lurking in the corner pulling strings.”

Some fans were, however, unhappy with the flak directed at the board. Ian, 61, from Wishaw, said: “There was a bit of rabble rousing. I thought the chief executive and chairman spoke very well but some of the Rangers supporters in there let the fans down.”

Colin Foster, 40, from Livingston, added: “Most people were reasonably supportive of the board, particularly the new members. They are big hitters and I’ve got confidence in them. But I’m concerned with the sizeable, vocal group that were against the board. That needs to get sorted one way or another.”

 

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