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David Somers requested pay rise despite cash crisis at Ibrox club


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Rangers chairman David Somers shocked fellow directors by seeking a pay-rise – just as the club were lurching towards a new cash crisis.Sportsmail has learned that Somers requested an increase to his salary shortly after agreeing to become executive chairman on a temporary basis on October 30.

His request came despite the Rangers board being forced to accept a £2million loan offer from Newcastle owner Mike Ashley to keep the club alive. Ashley subsequently loaned a further £1m – secured against assets – to keep the lights on.

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Rangers chairman David Somers (second from the left) shocked fellow directors by seeking a pay-rise

Appointed temporary, then permanent, non-executive chairman in November 2013, Somers was detailed to work for Rangers two days a month, but assumed a full-time role following the departure of former chief executive Graham Wallace and finance director Philip Nash.

Asked to oversee the search for replacements, eventual appointments Derek Llambias and Barry Leach were already working at the club as consultants and were always expected to fill the posts.

On the morning his new role was confirmed, Somers spoke to Sky Sports News outside Ibrox, joking of ‘more work, no more money’.

But in a communication with former colleague Nash uncovered under the Data Protection Act last September, the Ibrox chairman had referred to his ‘poor level of remuneration’.

It’s unclear if the Rangers board agreed to the Somers request for a salary increase after it was tendered to the club’s Remuneration and Nominations Committee but the proposal outraged former investors Laxey Partners.

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Phoenix Suns owner and financier Robert Sarver has increased his Rangers takeover bid to £20million

Rangers remain in a perilous financial state as they desperately seek emergency funding.

On Thursday, American financier Robert Sarver upped his offer for the club after a previous £18m bid for control was rejected. Sarver should discover on Friday if his improved £20m bid has cut any ice with the embattled Ibrox board.

The owner of NBA side the Phoenix Suns also announced that he is ready to offer the crisis-hit club a £6.5m emergency loan to help keep it afloat.

However, his ambition to hold a controlling interest in the club can only move forward if 75 per cent of shareholders back such a proposal.

In a move that will chime with many in an increasingly disgruntled fan base, the American hinted he would be willing to continue working with two factions who last week snapped up significant stakes in the club.

Former Ibrox director Dave King, who purchased 15 per cent of the club, and Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor – dubbed the Three Bears - who have a combined interest of around 20 per cent are acting independently with the shared aim of achieving regime change.

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Sarver failed in his bid to buy a controlling stake of the Ibrox club after offering £18m

Rangers have yet to repay the £3m loan Sports Direct tycoon Ashley gave the club last year while he has also tightened his grip on the club’s retail division. However, Sarver insists he will provide a steady stream of cash to the club if his bid is successful.

In a statement given to the Stock Exchange, the 53-year-old said: ‘This new proposal hopefully helps the board deal with the short-term cash flow crunch and also addresses my desire to see the club back on a solid long-term financial footing.

‘It will also enable Rangers to immediately repay the loans from Mike Ashley and Sandy Easdale, and free it of debt.

‘If the board agrees to my proposal, I would provide a total of £16.4m-£20m to be invested in the club as the board determines - £6.5m immediately and the remainder following a share issue, taking the major step necessary to restore financial stability to the club.

‘I know, of course, that there are various groups of prominent fans who have been working hard for a long time to bring change to the club and they can rest assured that I am committed to building a strong partnership with fans and key stakeholders to do what is best for the club.

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Sarver also offers a £6.5m emergency loan to the cash-strapped club to pay off debts in the short term

‘I fully realise that a strong sports club needs local investment, local directors and local support to be successful.

‘After everything they have been through in recent years, I understand some (fans) are rightly cautious about a guy they’ve never heard of wanting to get involved in their club. I’d feel exactly the same way.

‘But hopefully I can combine my financial resources and knowledge of professional sport with strong local leaders and top-notch management to bring Rangers back to elite level.

‘I look forward to receiving the response of the Rangers board.’

Curiously, Sarver felt the need to respond to speculation on social media that he was working with other parties. His spokesman said: ‘There appears to be some speculation in online fans’ forums, prompting questions from the media asking if Mr Sarver is working in conjunction with other figures associated with Ibrox.

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Dave King bought a 14.5 per cent share in the club this month and is keen to protect the club for the fans

‘Let me assure you he is not. To be very clear, Mr Sarver has never met or spoken to Mike Ashley, Sandy Easdale or James Easdale.

‘And for the complete avoidance of doubt, he has never met or spoken to Charles Green or Craig Whyte. He is not working with, acting for, or alongside any of these individuals.

‘Mr Sarver is acting on his own behalf, although he has repeatedly said that if he succeeds in acquiring a majority stake in Rangers he would like to work with others who clearly have the best long-term interests of Rangers at heart.’

Rangers meantime confirmed they have repaid the £500,000 loan issued by Easdale on Monday after Brentford paid the first installment on their £850,000 purchase of the midfielder Lewis Macleod.

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2902719/Rangers-chairman-David-Somers-requested-pay-rise-despite-cash-crisis-Ibrox-club.html#ixzz3OIyRZsA8

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The chain of events which sparked an auction for Rangers can be traced back to a conference call two weeks before Christmas.

Norman Crighton, a former non-executive director of Rangers, took his leave of Ibrox on a Wednesday morning. His departure not only removed the first point of contact for Robert Sarver, the American who has upped his bid for the club to £20million plus £6.5m in short-term loans. It also ended the uneasy alliance safeguarding Mike Ashley’s powerbase.

An undemonstrative financier, Crighton was never, as people had speculated, the appointed representative of Laxey Partners on the plc board.

 

Colin Kingsnorth, chairman of Laxey, put his name forward to the club’s former nominated advisers Daniel Stewart. But the final approval for his appointment was granted by chairman David Somers, James Easdale and former finance director Brian Stockbridge.

A quietly spoken Dundonian with a strong ethical streak and extensive experience of publicly quoted companies, Crighton took his boardroom responsibilities at Rangers seriously. Guarding the interests of Laxey was never his goal. Protecting the wider body of shareholders was.

While others, including the Easdale brothers and Somers, threw their weight behind Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s takeover by stealth, Crighton remained a sceptic. He stood back from the crowd and applied a critical eye.

 

He began to ask questions. Plenty of them. Few were of the type his fellow directors cared to answer. In the weeks before his departure, Crighton sent a steady stream of emails querying the club’s running to Somers. All went unanswered.

His queries were wide-ranging and complex. One was shared by many supporters. Why was Ashley obtaining so much power and influence.

He had provided £3m of short-term loans. But the offer of £16m for a 51 per cent stake from Dave King and George Letham appeared to be better for shareholders.

The issue was one of timing. The Ashley cash was available more quickly than the King cash and the board had failed to receive proof of funds from the South Africa-based former director.

Apparently ignoring the club’s broader interests, Ashley pushed on at some pace. He pursued SFA dispensation to up his stake in the club to 29.9 per cent. Dual interest regulations would frustrate him in the end. Yet, two weeks before the club’s annual general meeting or the SFA edict, he was acting as if the deed was done. Sports Direct were effectively calling the shots.

This struck some investors, most notably Laxey, as unsatisfactory. Ashley, after all, had just 8.92 per cent of the shares. He was a significant shareholder but by no means a majority one.

 

With Rangers running out of money, however, a wealthy benefactor was needed. He was also prepared to work with the existing directors, Somers and the Easdales, so long as they supported his goals.

To the outside world, Ashley’s goal appeared to be to protect the lucrative Rangers merchandising contracts which poured millions into the coffers of Sports Direct. His trusted lieutenants Derek Llambias and Barry Leach were brought in and became influential.

So much so that, weeks before his appointment as chief executive was confirmed to the stock market, Llambias was the man who instigated the dismissal of Crighton during a conference call which became heated following more awkward, unwanted questions.

To an outsider, Crighton’s questions would have seemed logical — necessary even. They were concerns any shareholder or non-executive director with the broader interests of the club might ask.

But the broader interests of Rangers were no longer what was at stake two weeks before Christmas. What mattered by then were the interests of Ashley and Sports Direct.

So it was, then, that Crighton was informed down a telephone line that his fellow directors no longer wished to work with him.

 

Sources say he had become a persistent, troublesome thorn in the side of Ashley’s unquestioning acolytes. They could have waited until the AGM two weeks later, when Crighton was up for re-election anyway, and allowed shareholders to decide.

But tension was growing and, as the subsequent emails have revealed, some on the Rangers board would do whatever it took to keep hold of their blazers and ties.

Crighton’s exit, when it was confirmed, was low-key. Quickly forgotten.

Within 48 hours Ally McCoist, an Ibrox icon, had resigned. The departure of a non-executive director threatened to become a footnote.

Yet what happened that day proved to be critical. It was the beginning of the end for the Ibrox status quo. By bulleting Crighton, the Rangers directors created a substantial problem for themselves. In time, it may even prove to be their downfall.

Laxey Partners, chaired by Kingsnorth, had been broadly supportive of the Ashley and Easdale powerbase during key votes. But the Isle of Man hedge fund were becoming concerned by the direction the club was moving in. Ashley’s interests, they believed, no longer aligned with theirs or those of Rangers as a club.

Crighton’s removal was the final straw. It convinced Kingsnorth to sell the firm’s 14.5 per cent stake in the club.

They were sold to the ‘Three Bears’ of George Letham, Douglas Park and George Taylor with a final withering salvo. In a statement, Kingsnorth blamed Somers for the departure of Crighton and described the chairman — a much-derided figure these days — as a ‘wet fish’.

 

Laxey were appalled by a staggering request from Somers for a rise in his £60,000-a-year non-executive chairman’s salary. This at a time when the club were running out of cash.

Yet Laxey’s shares might easily have gone elsewhere — to the man whose belated bid to purchase the club has just been rejected.

Whilst still on the board, Crighton had received an approach from Sarver, the soccer-loving owner of the Phoenix Suns basketball team.

Keen to acquire control of a football club in the UK, the American banker was persuaded by former Ibrox defender David Robertson — a fellow resident of Arizona — to consider saving Rangers.

Through mutual friends, he was put in touch with Crighton.

Opting to make an £18m offer for new shares — raised to £20m plus a £6.5m short-term loan —Sarver took a different path.

The Laxey shares went instead to Park, Letham and Taylor. And within days King — acting separately, but with a common interest — would also purchase a near 15 per cent stake in the club.

Previously untouchable, Ashley had been blindsided. Soon Leach was appointed finance director. It is presumed it was done on the say-so of his Sports Direct boss, but that has never been confirmed. Either way, the best strategy for Ashley now may be to work with the potential new investors rather than against them.

If — or, rather, when — regime change happens, the chances of Somers or the Easdales retaining their cherished positions on the Rangers board diminish greatly.

Another reason why they, as power slips from their fingers, must wish a conference call in mid-December had taken a different course.

 

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2902782/Rangers-regime-scored-huge-goal-axing-dissenter-Norman-Crighton-conference-call.html#ixzz3OJ4Mil8R

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