At that stage, it took the supporters group’s shareholding in Rangers to just under 11 per cent – the second biggest stake in the club. Only Dave King, the then chairman who had successfully ousted Sports Direct owner Ashley and his acolytes from the boardroom in 2015, held more shares.
Since then, Club 1872’s holding has been diluted by a series of fresh share issues which have converted loans from major investors in the club into shares. It ensured the ongoing funding levels required by Rangers could be maintained but saw Club 1872’s holding drop to just under five per cent, leaving them as the sixth biggest shareholder.
Now that King has committed to selling all of his shares to Club 1872, their ambition of carrying significant influence on the running of the club has been rekindled. If they can find the level of backing from the Rangers supporter base required to buy out King’s holding of 20.37 per cent – still the biggest in the club – it would take them just beyond the 25 per cent threshold which provides telling leverage in any company. It would allow them to block any special resolutions proposed by the board of which they did not approve.
The deal announced by Club 1872 and King on Tuesday evening requires over 20,000 Rangers fans to get on board and fund the transfer of shares from the South Africa-based businessman, who stepped down as chairman in March, at a price of 23.7p per share. There is a three-year deadline on the deal with King offering a price of just 20p per share if it is completed before December next year.
The current Rangers board, of which King’s successor as chairman Douglas Park is the second biggest shareholder at the club with a stake of just over 12 per cent, have agreed that both Club 1872 and King will be eligible to participate in any future share issue. It means Club 1872’s shareholding would not be diluted again, so long as they have the funds to participate.
It leaves Rangers still a long way from being a fan-owned club. For the foreseeable future, they remain reliant on the funding being provided by Park and deputy chairman John Bennett, along with the kind of fresh investment recently provided by Asian-based businessman Stuart Gibson who paid £5 million for a 7.64 per cent stake – the fourth biggest in the club.
But in seeking to empower Club 1872, King is backing up his determination to ensure control of Rangers does not fall into the kind of hands which oversaw its financial downfall back in 2012.
"After completion of my service as chairman I took time to consider how I can create a final legacy by giving supporters - including future generations - substantial shareholder influence for the first time in the almost 150 years history of our club,” said King. The challenge now for Club 1872 is to seize the opportunity to wield that influence.