Robert Sarver weighs options as Rangers reject bid

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver. Picture: Getty

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver. Picture: Getty

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ROBERT Sarver will bide his time before deciding how to respond to Rangers’ rejection of his proposed £18 million takeover. The Ibrox club said yesterday that the American’s valuation was too low, but invited him to have talks about investing in the cash-strapped business.

In response, Sarver noted that the deadline for making a formal offer is 2 February, and said he had yet to decide whether to bid or what form his offer would take.

“Robert Sarver, the US financier and majority owner of the National Basketball Association franchise Phoenix Suns, confirms that he has made an approach to the Board of RIFC [Rangers International Football Club] with a view to explore the possibility of purchasing the entire issued share capital of the company,” a statement to the Stock Exchange on behalf of the Arizona-based businessman said yesterday. “Mr Sarver also notes the deadline of 5pm, 2 February 2015 in accordance with Rule 2.6(a) of the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers (the “Takeover Code”).

“Nothing in this announcement constitutes an announcement of a firm intention to make an offer in accordance with Rule 2.7 of the Takeover Code. There can be no certainty that an offer will be made nor as to the terms on which any offer might be made.”

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Sarver also said he has provided proof of funds to the Rangers board, and there is little doubt that the money at his disposal would be enough to put the club back on its feet. But, while Rangers are living hand to mouth at present and in desperate need of fresh funds, the board suggested the American’s offer would not be acceptable to the 75 per cent of the shareholding required to approve a takeover.

“The proposal by Mr Sarver comprises a placing of 100 million shares at 18p, which, if approved by shareholders at a general meeting, would be immediately followed by an unconditional offer at 18p pursuant to Rule 9 of the Code,” Rangers said in their statement to the Stock Exchange. “The placing would give Mr Sarver control of Rangers.

“While the directors welcome Mr Sarver’s approach, they believe that, notwithstanding the current financial difficulties, the proposal does not adequately value a controlling interest in the company and accordingly the resolution to approve the placing is unlikely to achieve the 75 per cent majority required. The directors do not intend to hold the general meeting which would be necessary to implement the proposal.

READ MORE: Rangers get £500k loan from Easdale to stay afloat

“The company is managing its cash resources carefully and will require further funding before the end of January. The directors are in discussions with Rangers’ significant stakeholders with a view to arranging finance for the club.

“This is likely to comprise loans in the short term and possibly equity in the medium term. The board has invited Mr Sarver to consider participating in a similar discussion alongside other supportive shareholders.”

It remains to be seen which, if any, of those “significant stakeholders” agrees to provide additional funding to the present board. The latest loan, of £500,000, came from director Sandy Easdale on Monday, and has been secured against the transfer fee, estimated at £1m, from Brentford for the sale of Lewis Macleod.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has already loaned Rangers £3m and owns nine per cent of the shares as well as controlling the club’s retail arm. Until recently he had been seen as the most likely source of new investment, but the Scottish Football Association blocked his bid to increase his shareholding to nearly 30 per cent, and since Christmas a rival shareholding block has been created by Dave King and the Three Bears – George Letham, Douglas Park and George Taylor.

Those two groups have the backing of the Union of Fans, the umbrella body of Rangers supporters’ organisations, and, with the assistance of other, smaller shareholdings, could be close to acquiring the majority required to oust the current board. Having put a lot of time and effort into getting their current stake, King and the Bears would almost certainly not sell out to Sarver, but, like the board, they appear eager to remain on good terms with him in the hope that he invests in the club.

The fans hoping to take over their club received a boost yesterday when businessman Jim McColl, who supported a move against the board a year ago, gave his 10,000 shares to supporters’ group Rangers First. “I was happy with the aims of Rangers First in uniting the fan shareholders and I have gifted my shares to Rangers First,” McColl said. “I encourage other supporters to look at their aims and decide for themselves.”

Rangers First owns around 0.75 per cent of shares and plans to buy another 40,000 in the coming days. “The Rangers First support are committing to the future of the club,” a spokesperson for the organisation said. “Players and directors come and go, but the fans are the one constant. More and more fans are now stepping up every day. The fans will always be there.”

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