London hotel pulls out of hosting Rangers meeting

Rangers' Ibrox Stadium. Picture: John Devlin

Rangers' Ibrox Stadium. Picture: John Devlin

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FURTHER turmoil hit Rangers last night when the London hotel set to host the potentially powderkeg General Meeting of shareholders to decide the future of the club pulled out.

The embattled Rangers board was left looking for an alternative venue for the event on 4 March but insisted it would still go ahead in the “London area”.

Fearful of disruption to guests and neighbouring properties and businesses, the Millennium Gloucester Hotel & Conference Centre in Kensington told the Rangers board it had cancelled their booking.

The club’s announcement on Friday that the meeting would be held in the 500-capacity venue sparked huge controversy.

A club statement last night read: “Rangers has today been informed that the which was the intended venue for the 
requisitioned general meeting on Wednesday 4 March 2015 is no longer available. The hotel management has taken advice and concluded that the GM cannot be managed without significant disruption to guests and neighbours.”

Yesterday, Dave King, the man who has forced the board to call the GM, described the decision to hold it in London as “simply outrageous” and accused the directors of “dishonesty” in their efforts to undermine his bid to remove them from power.

The increasingly bitter battle for control of the crisis-torn Ibrox club saw the incumbent directors formally respond last Friday to King’s requisition for a GM. In a surprise move, they announced that the meeting would take place in London. It will be the first time a meeting of Rangers shareholders has been staged outside Glasgow.

The club’s lengthy stock exchange announcement on Friday also questioned former Rangers director King’s suitability to hold office at the club again, citing his lengthy legal battle with South African Revenue Services (SARS) which resulted in him agreeing a £44 million settlement in 2013 for 41 charges of contravening tax laws in his adopted homeland. King has insisted it should present no barriers to him becoming a company director in the UK or in passing the Scottish FA’s “fit and proper” criteria for taking up a formal role at a club.

In a statement issued last night, King remained robust in that view and released an email response from SARS to a BBC reporter stating he “is able to operate on a normal unrestricted basis in the business environment.”

King has expressed his complete confidence he will win the day at the Rangers GM where he is calling for the removal of the four current directors – chairman David Somers, Greenock businessman James Easdale, chief executive Derek Llambias and finance director Barry Leach. Both Llambias and Leach are associates of Sports Direct and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.

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A simple majority of over 50 per cent is needed to depose the current directors at the GM, which will also vote on the appointments of King, his fellow ex-Rangers director Paul Murray and former Tennent Caledonian Breweries managing director John Gilligan to the board.

“I am grateful that we finally have a date for the General Meeting and that the club will shortly see the board, shareholders and fans reunited in our efforts to restore Rangers to its former status as an elite football club,” said King in his statement.

“In its announcement the board again recycled the now discredited story about my litigation in South Africa despite knowing that what was stated was irrevocably superseded by subsequent court orders. This is a simple act of dishonesty. In this regard, I have attached a confirmatory email from the SA Revenue Services that was recently sent to a BBC reporter who queried my statement on that point. Presumably the board’s spin-doctor has been unable to conjure credible new arguments for the board to continue in place.

“What is truly disappointing, albeit unsurprising, is the board’s continued bitterness and antagonism towards the club’s shareholders and supporters. Moving the General Meeting to London at greater cost to the club, at greater cost to small shareholders, and at a venue that excludes the majority of shareholders is simply outrageous

by any standard of respect or corporate governance.”

King is also critical of Rangers nominated financial advisors (Nomad) WH Ireland for sanctioning last week’s stock exchange statement. WH Ireland are represented by Paul Shackleton who was previously with Daniel Stewart, Rangers’ Nomad until last December when their shares were suspended due to late filing of annual accounts.

“I am astonished that WH Ireland has endorsed this announcement,” added King. “While at a previous Nomad, Paul Shackleton presided over appalling governance by the board. However, I had expected his new employer to demand a higher standard. This reinforces my previous statements that WH Ireland is not a fit and proper Nomad for the club and must be removed.”

The email from SARS to the BBC released by King, dated 25 January 2015, was written by SARS spokesman Adrian Lackay.

It reads: “Following his settlement agreement, which was approved before court, with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and other government institutions in August 2013, SARS did provide Mr Dave King with a written notice to confirm that the litigation and the tax dispute between Mr King and SARS has been settled in terms of the relevant provisions of the Tax Administration Act, Act 28 of 2013.

“Mr King was also informed that as far as the legislation carried out by SARS is concerned, Mr King is not disqualified from serving as a director of any company and is able to operate on a normal unrestricted basis in the business environment.”

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