GREENOCK businessman James Easdale has succeeded in his quest to have a say in the running of Rangers after being named as a non-executive director of the club yesterday.
In a move which appears to have circumvented the prospect of a potentially acrimonious and expensive extraordinary general meeting of shareholders, Rangers also announced the departure from the board of former chairman Malcolm Murray and non-executive director Phil Cartmell.
Easdale, along with his brother Sandy, are believed to have purchased a six per cent shareholding in Rangers when the club was placed on the stock exchange last December. In April this year, it was revealed that outgoing chief executive Charles Green had agreed in principle to sell the bulk of his 7.8 per cent stake in the club to the Easdale brothers.
Despite Green’s resignation as chief executive, in the wake of claims he had covertly worked in conjunction with former chairman and owner Craig Whyte when purchasing the business and assets of Rangers for £5.5 million from administrators Duff and Phelps in May 2012, the Yorkshire businessman remained the biggest individual shareholder in the club. Under stock market rules, Green is “locked in” to owning those shares until 7 December this year. He has already agreed to transfer 1.1 per cent of his stake to Isle of Man-based investment company Laxey Partners when the lock-in period expires.
In May, one of Green’s original consortium investors, Blue Pitch Holdings, called for an egm to propose the removal of Murray and Cartmell from the board and the appointment of James Easdale and Green’s associate Chris Morgan as directors. At the time, Easdale made it clear he was not prepared to be a silent investor in Rangers.
“When you spend that amount of money on any business you wouldn’t go without a voice,” he said. “A presence on the board is something we would be seeking in the mid-term.”
Ayrshire businessman Murray, appointed by Green in June last year, initially resisted the attempt to oust him but at the end of May he agreed to step down as chairman and was replaced by former manager Walter Smith who has been a non-executive director since December. Now Murray has departed, along with Cartmell.
“Both Malcolm and Phil have made important and valuable contributions to the club,” said Smith.
“The last year has presented the Club with a number of challenges and it has been beneficial to have two highly experienced non-executive directors such as Malcolm and Phil offering assistance.
“On behalf of the board I would like to thank them for their considerable efforts in helping to rebuild Rangers. Both men have other significant business interests and we wish them well in their future endeavours.”
Rangers supporters will now wait with interest to view what impact the arrival of Easdale on the board has on the club. The 42-year-old, along with older sibling Sandy, runs Scotland’s largest independent bus operator McGills through their Arranglen Ltd investment company. They previously had strong links with their local club Morton, last January funding the Cappielow side’s signing of striker Colin McMenamin.
In a brief statement issued to the stock exchange and Rangers’ website, James Easdale stressed his football loyalties lie firmly at Ibrox and expressed his intention to aid the club’s bid to regain a place at the summit of the Scottish game.
“As a lifelong Rangers supporter,” said Easdale, “I am proud and honoured to serve on the board of such a great sporting institution and look forward to helping Rangers Football Club continue its journey back to the top of Scottish football.”
Easdale becomes part of what is now a six-man board at Rangers, along with Smith, interim chief executive Craig Mather, finance director Brian Stockbridge and non-executive directors Ian Hart and Bryan Smart.
In a separate stock exchange announcement yesterday, Rangers revealed they have appointed Strand Hanson Ltd as their new nominated adviser and broker. The Mayfair-based merchant bank replaces Cenkos, the specialist securities firm which handled Rangers’ placing on the alternative investment market (AIM) at the London Stock Exchange.
That share issue in December racked up a reported £22.2m for the club, increasing the total share capital raised since Rangers’ incorporation under Green’s consortium last June to £35.2m. The club’s first interim accounts since administration and subsequent liquidation under Whyte’s calamitous tenure showed a £7m loss, with Stockbridge warning at the time that an operating loss is expected in the first full yearly accounts which have yet to be published. The appointment of a new stock exchange broker will fuel speculation of another potential share issue by Rangers.
The club have signed seven new players so far this summer as they prepare for their Second Division campaign, while offloading two high earners in Carlos Bocanegra and Dorin Goian. Chief executive Mather has stated that more players may have to leave in order to “balance the books”.
Rangers supporters continue to underpin the recovery process at the club, with season ticket sales yesterday passing through the 31,000 mark.