Mike Ashley to offer Three Bears boardroom clout

Mike Ashley wants to freeze out Dave King, paving the way for the Three Bears to gain some boardroom influence.Picture: Getty

Mike Ashley wants to freeze out Dave King, paving the way for the Three Bears to gain some boardroom influence.Picture: Getty

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THE Rangers faithful might have rare off-field good news to celebrate in the coming days after it emerged there could be some form of detente that would allow the consortium of Donald Park, George Letham and George Taylor a foothold on the Ibrox board.

The so-called Three Bears group, who own around a 20 per cent shareholding in the club, are believed to be looked upon as people the Mike Ashley/Easdale brothers axis can do business with – which is altogether at odds with how they view Dave King, now the largest single shareholder with a 15 per cent stake, after his attempts to “starve out” the current regime with his season ticket boycott calls last summer.

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Rangers desperately need a short-term financial sticking plaster, as well as long-term investment.

Ashley, who provided £3 million in loans towards the end of 2014, is believed to be ready to step back from being the bank of last resort for the club following the Scottish Football Association blocking his bid to increase his 8.92 per cent shareholding to 29 per cent.

This has created the conditions whereby the Three Bears consortium could be offered boardroom representation in return for providing the latest tranche of loans – ahead of a share issue in which they could gain a dominant influence.

It could be that chairman David Somers is offered up as a sacrificial lamb from the current regime, almost as a goodwill gesture to the incoming investors. That would play well with a support who might be suspicious even at a temporary solution that leaves James and Sandy Easdale with representation.

Any tactical withdrawal from Ashley would be on the proviso that his commercial contracts, which have been shown to be advantageous to his Sports Direct empire and do little for the Ibrox club’s coffers, would remain in place.

As these contracts seem watertight and above any legal challenge, the Three Bears may be governed by pragmatism in initially seeking a degree of control for now, as opposed to the all-or-nothing approach that characterised the takeover efforts of King and, more recently, American Robert Sarver in the last week.

Sarver, the millionaire who owns the Phoenix Suns NBA basketball franchise, increased his offer for control of Rangers to £20m on Thursday but needs 75 per cent shareholder approval.

Meanwhile, the fan-ownership group Rangers First has increased its Ibrox stake after snapping up another 60,000 shares.

The Ibrox faithful could yet have a vital part to play and around 10 per cent of Rangers’ shares are owned by fans and small shareholders.

Rangers First has followed the lead of the Rangers Supporters Trust – which has a one per cent stake after snapping up 100,000 shares last week – by purchasing a sizeable tranche. Rangers First, which has set up a scheme similar to the one which rescued Hearts from administration, now controls 664,792 shares – or around 0.8 per cent of the club.

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