BRIAN Kennedy has dramatically re-entered the battle for control of Rangers with a loan offer to the beleaguered current board as they assess their options in addressing the ongoing financial problems at Ibrox.
On another eventful day in the apparently endless off-field saga at Rangers, which saw Philip Nash resign as a director, Edinburgh-born businessman Kennedy made his offer as an alternative to the emergency funding proposed by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.
Kennedy, the owner of Sale Sharks rugby club, has previously failed in three attempts to purchase Rangers following their financial collapse in 2012 – both on an individual basis and as part of the Blue Knights consortium led by former club director Paul Murray.
It is understood Kennedy’s latest intervention is in the form of a loan which would only require board approval to be passed. Ashley, who already has an 8.92 per cent shareholding in Rangers and controls their retail operation, has offered a funding package which would entitle him to nominate his own directors of the club.
Last month, the Sports Direct owner called for an emergency general meeting of shareholders to vote on the removal of both Nash and chief executive Graham Wallace. The voluntary departure of Nash yesterday places fresh doubt on Wallace’s future.
Nash, a former Arsenal chief executive and Liverpool chief financial officer, joined Rangers on a consultancy basis in January this year before being appointed to the board in July.
Announcing the 42-year-old’s resignation to the Stock Exchange, Rangers said: “The board would like to thank Mr Nash for his significant contribution to the company during a particularly challenging period.”
As the Rangers board consider the offers from Ashley and Kennedy, with football club chairman Sandy Easdale’s control of over 25 per cent of voting rights still central to any decisions made, former director Dave King’s £16 million bailout plan remains on the table.
The South Africa-based businessman returned home on Thursday without striking a deal with Easdale but last night insisted his offer should not be affected by Ashley’s involvement.
“I don’t see the offer of a short-term loan by Mr Ashley affecting me in any way,” he said. “The board is in the final stages of reviewing our offer and I expect a definitive answer early next week. Frankly, it doesn’t seem possible that the board can do anything other than recommend it to shareholders given the dire financial circumstances and the fact that no other long-term solution is on offer.
“Mr Ashley’s involvement (and recently announced continued commitment) with Newcastle precludes him from making a similar offer of long-term permanent equity. What Mr Ashley can do is attempt to increase his vice-like grip on the Rangers brand by improving his retail position as a condition for supplying short-term debt to tide the club over until our permanent funding is in place. But I know that there are other investors also willing to provide bridging finance. The board will therefore not have to accept punitive terms even if Ashley attempts to oppose them.
“The board is ethically and legally bound to act in the best interest of the company and all shareholders. Ashley cannot expect preferential treatment and will not get it.” Responding to Nash’s resignation, King said: “He is a man of integrity. Perhaps he wanted to disassociate himself from something unsavoury.”