PAUL Murray last night claimed that those seeking to maintain the status quo at Ibrox could employ smear tactics ahead of the Rangers EGM.
The former oldco director, a key backer of Dave King and one of the men who would be nominated for a directorship if the businessman gains enough shareholder support to oust the current board at the forthcoming extraordinary general meeting, issued his warning on the same day that ex-Rangers chief executive Charles Green gave a remarkable interview from his London hospital bed,
Green slated South Africa-based King for his tax convictions and defended his own stewardship of the club. He also hit out at Ally McCoist over the former Rangers manager’s unwillingness to follow his lead and reduce his salary when the club were forced to start again in the Third Division.
In the Rangers turf war, Green gave his backing to Mike Ashley – even though he said he didn’t “like” the Newcastle United owner. Ashley is effectively the controlling influence at Rangers with an 8.9 per cent stake and through his placement of Derek Llambias and Barry Leach on a board in which chairman David Somers and James Easdale are also on his side.
Ashley’s emergency loans of £3 million before Christmas to keep the club solvent have earned him a power base that King and Murray are determined to end through the EGM.
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Matters came to a head last week when it emerged the current board were considering giving Ashley security over Ibrox in return for another loan of £10m. The ensuing outcry from fans was matched by denunciations from King and the “Three Bears” group of wealthy supporters and investors Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor, two parties who had each offered similar rescue packages without demanding such security.
With King controlling a 16 per cent stake and Park and his associates holding 19 per cent, there is a need to carry the ten per cent of individual fans with shares, as well as some of the other institutional investors, to achieve the necessary 51 per cent for change at the EGM.
Murray’s statement yesterday could be considered a rallying call to all those who want to see “Rangers men” at the Ibrox helm.
Murray said: “In the lead up to the general meeting, the usual suspects will attempt to undermine our cause because they realise their days could be numbered.
Murray, who would be joined on a new Rangers board by King and former Tennent’s brewers managing director John Gilligan, if they force change at the EGM, added: “The truth is that, for the first time in years, there is a group of people capable of rebuilding and repairing our club and malicious speculation will not deflect us.
“Rangers have to re-engage with Scottish football and take our place again at the top table. We need to be financially stable again and accept our responsibilities to the game in general. Change will come and we can all emerge from a black period in this fantastic club’s history.”
Murray spoke yesterday to endorse the fan ownership schemes of Buy Rangers – run by the Rangers Supporters Trust – and Rangers First, each of them vehicles for purchasing tranches of shares. Murray maintained they would have roles in any post-Ashley Ibrox club.
“Dave King, John Gilligan and I are committed to meaningful fan ownership and representation and that is one of the reasons I have pledged my support to both groups. RST and Rangers First must be recognised by those of us striving to remove the current directors and begin the process of repairing the considerable damage caused by a constantly changing boardroom.
“The fans can play a hugely significant part in forcing change through votes.
“They are the most loyal supporters any club could wish for but have been disregarded by a succession of directors in recent years, and I for one recognise their contribution in the struggle to end the disgrace and level of mismanagement within Ibrox.”
Green is perceived as one of the many asset strippers. But the businessman, who was forced to quit as Rangers CEO after it was alleged he had links with former owner Craig Whyte – claims he denied – refuted suggestions he had squeezed every penny he could from the club. And he quashed rumours that he had been arrested in France as part of police investigations into his Rangers takeover in the summer of 2012.
“I have met Police Scotland on two occasions where those questions were in relation to the previous ownership of the club and obviously is part of an ongoing investigation but it was nothing to do with my running of the club,” he told Sky Sports News from a London hospital where he is recovering from a knee operation.
“Let’s be clear, I raised £35m for that club when it was in a much worse situation than it is today when I was sat in meetings with Rod Petrie who was saying, ‘Just hand the titles back, hand the cups back’ and we didn’t do that.
“I fought for Rangers. I’m upset now. My salary was £360,000 a year. It was going to be double that but we were in the SPL. When we were thrown out the SPL I halved my salary. Ally McCoist refused to, so he kept his £760,000. I was entitled to stock option twice my salary and I didn’t take them. So all this rubbish that Charles Green raped and pillaged that club is not true.”
Green also said that even though he didn’t like Ashley it “didn’t mean he wasn’t the right man for the job”. Ashley, like Sandy Easdale, had done “nothing but good for Rangers”, Green claimed.
“Sandy Easdale has put his hand in his pocket, and put [money] into the club,” he said “Yet here we have Dave King… Sandy’s got one charge, one conviction against him [for fraud] and Dave King has admitted to 40 to settle with the South African [tax] authorities.”
Easdale yesterday increased his stake in the club by buying up more than one million shares. It means he now owns just less than 6.5 per cent. He also holds the proxies of a number of other shareholders, including Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita Funds Holding Trust – putting him in control of a further 19.6 per cent.
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