THE battle for boardroom control of Rangers will be won and lost on home soil after the club’s current directors were forced into a dramatic U-turn over the venue for their critical general meeting of shareholders.
Ibrox Stadium will now host the meeting, on a date which will be confirmed this morning, after a second London hotel cancelled the club’s booking.
Rangers caused uproar among supporters and shareholders earlier this month when they originally announced that the GM, requisitioned by former director Dave King in a bid to oust the incumbent board, would be held at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London on 4 March. But the Kensington hotel announced it was pulling out of hosting the GM as they feared it would cause “significant disruption to guests and neighbours” amid claims that large numbers of Rangers fans planned to travel to the hotel and protest against the club’s board.
Despite criticism of the decision to choose London for the GM, Rangers then insisted they would seek an alternative venue in the city. Yesterday, they released a 7am statement to the stock exchange announcing it would now take place at the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in the Tower Hamlets area of London.
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In the early afternoon, however, Grange Hotels revealed on their Twitter page that they were reconsidering the Rangers booking. Shortly before 5pm, they formally confirmed they had cancelled it. A Grange Hotels spokesman said: “There is no question when it comes to the comfort and security of our guests and staff. We do not compromise on this and therefore the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel has declined the opportunity to host the proposed Rangers FC GM.”
With the situation becoming more farcical by the hour, Rangers were left with little option but to accede to the overwhelming wishes of most of their shareholders by deciding the GM will now take place at Ibrox. It is not yet clear whether it will remain on 4 March.
“We are aware of the situation,” said a Rangers spokesman. “There will be a statement in the morning but we can confirm that the GM will revert to Ibrox.”
King, who owns 14.57 per cent of Rangers shares through his family trust New Oasis Asset Ltd, is calling for the removal of all four current directors – chairman David Somers, chief executive Derek Llambias, finance director Barry Leach and Greenock businessman James Easdale. He is also seeking the appointment of himself, former Rangers director Paul Murray and ex-Tennent Caledonian Breweries managing director John Gilligan to the board.
The South Africa-based businessman is confident he has sufficient support, including from the ‘Three Bears’ consortium of Rangers-supporting businessmen Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor, to win more than 50 per cent of votes at the GM.
In their morning statement to the stock exchange, Rangers had urged shareholders not to support King and again questioned his suitability to become a director in light of his 11-year legal battle with the tax authorities in South Africa.
“The directors continue to recommend that shareholders vote against the requisitioned resolutions,” it read. “In the circular to shareholders dated 6 February, the board set out its position which envisages representation from all major shareholder groups (including New Oasis Asset Limited and the group known as the Three Bears), together with independent directors, where no one interest group will have a majority influence.
“The intention is that this will lead to consensus management. Offers have already been made in this regard, and dating back to before the requisition was received. The directors consider that the board should comprise a CEO and finance director, representatives of the three largest shareholder groups, and at least two independent non-executives. This will only be achieved with consensus amongst the various stakeholders.
“The requisitioned resolutions contemplate a smaller board. There is no promise that all shareholders’ interests will be represented and serious regulatory issues remain unanswered, particularly in respect of the Scottish Football Association and the position of a nominated advisor (NOMAD) in the event that the resolution to appoint Dave King is passed. Shareholders should consider who might be running the company and whether it will continue to be traded on AIM (alternative investment market) if the requisitioned resolutions are passed. Mr King is encouraged to provide clarification to shareholders regarding these matters.”
Last night, King issued his own statement, saying: “With a second London hotel declining to host the General Meeting members of the Rangers board and the company’s Nomad must now accept Ibrox as the best and obvious venue. There has been coverage in the media alleging concern by club directors about their personal safety and verbal abuse from Rangers fans and while unrest is understandable any anger must be peacefully channelled towards the removal of directors from the board. It is not the Rangers way to threaten individuals on a personal basis and there should be zero tolerance for this.
“I have already expressed my views on the decision to have the general meeting in London and I was appealing to fans not to travel. However, while Ibrox can easily accommodate everyone who wants to go I believe fans who are also shareholders should still ensure that a properly completed proxy is in place beforehand. The meeting will last only a few minutes as there is no debate beforehand.
“It was always my intention to vote by proxy and not travel to London and it remains the case that I will be in Glasgow with my fellow directors ready to commence the business of the day.
“It has been gratifying to see the manner in which fans have rallied since I requisitioned the general meeting.
“This action of increasing and consolidating their shareholding to the point that the fans have collectively become an increasingly significant voice in the future direction of the club is significant.”