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...bring back memories of administration at Ibrox.

 

AFTER Mike Ashley stepped up his Ibrox power grab with another huge loan this week KEITH asks; is the Sports Direct supremo actually asset-stripping Rangers or is he preparing to negotiate with a new board?

 

IS Mike Ashley asset-stripping Rangers ?

 

That’s the question asked under parliamentary privilege at the House of Commons on Tuesday and one the Newcastle owner will have to answer if, as expected, he is summoned to attend a Westminster enquiry .

 

On the face of it, there seems a strong case for the prosecution.

 

In the last few days, and without even stepping foot in Glasgow, Ashley has managed to sweep through Ibrox, scooping up just about everything of value that wasn’t nailed down. Had he bothered to turn up in person he might have made his way home on the famous old St Etienne bike, testing the integrity of its 37-year-old frame to the full.

 

Integrity. Now there’s a word that might cause Ashley more discomfort than half an hour on a racer’s saddle.

 

There are 7.125billion people on the planet. Only 292 of them have more money than Ashley.

 

And yet this champion of the zero hours contracts dumped 200 workers from his high street fashion store USC on to the dole just after Christmas without so much as a lump of coal for a thank you. Integrity? In Big Mike’s world that’s for wimps.

 

Little wonder then that he has acted so brazenly in his Ibrox power grab. With one hand he has fed Rangers with a succession of life-saving drip-feed loans while with the other he’s throttled it into submission.

 

His latest £10million handout was his way of parcelling up an entire institution into one of those vulgar, oversized Sports Direct carrier bags. As bargains go, this one takes some beating.

 

For the price of a fully repayable loan (or in other words for not a single penny) Ashley controls every last bit of Rangers FC, from the old boardroom to the dressing rooms inside Murray Park.

 

His commercial contract has been massively beefed up – Sports Direct now own 75 per cent of the club’s own retail company – which means the badges and crests are now in Ashley’s name too.

 

Also as part of the new agreement, if Rangers should strike a multi-million shirt sponsorship deal, the vast majority of that money will go straight into Ashley’s back pocket.

 

So, in summary, a business already teetering on the verge of insolvency has now taken on a mountain of new debt, while giving up huge chunks of its only existing revenue. Now I’m no Lord Sugar but even so, the logic being applied here seems so flawed that it’s bordering on insane.

 

This business now has its bare toes curled around the summit of Everest, having pawned off its safety harness. With one puff of his chubby red cheeks, Ashley could blow the whole thing into oblivion.

 

In fact, this latest decision by a board which is itself not fit for purpose has a very familiar and nasty whiff of madness to it. And the similarities don’t end there because another red flag was raised in Tuesday’s Stock Exchange statement and it came in the form of two words that became part of the Rangers discussion during Craig Whyte’s chaotic end of days – floating charge.

 

Now Ashley too has placed a floating charge over the club’s assets and although this may be purely

coincidental, while his motives and strategy remain a complete mystery, it ought to raise the general level of alarm. So is Ashley actually asset-stripping Rangers right in front of the eyes of its supporters? Or is this latest move the latest part of some other plan for the Ibrox club?

 

Those who study Ashley’s dealings closely describe him as the ultimate high-roller poker player.

 

They are quick to point out too that, deliberately inserted into Tuesday’s statement, was a line about all of these agreements being reversible upon repayment.

 

It could be, in tieing up all of the above, Ashley is merely about to spread them down like a massive pile of casino chips. That he is preparing for defeat at an egm in the knowledge that Dave King’s requisition already has majority support among the club’s shareholders.

 

Certainly, if any of these city types were previously undecided as to which way to cast their votes, the terms of Tuesday’s £10m loan shark deal would have helped make up their minds.

 

If anything, by accepting Ashley’s deal over a rival offer from Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor, the board may have significantly bolstered the mood for regime change. Where the numbers are concerned, King’s hand has just been strengthened.

 

Even so, Ashley heads into this showdown holding all the aces. Even if the board is obliterated, King will still have to deal with the man who controls the club’s assets. And Ashley will call the shots.

 

What he will not do is roll over. He’s had serious skin in this Rangers game for too long to fold now.

 

Ashley has been at the table for more than two years, ever since he handed £1m to Charles Green in advance of the £22m IPO of December 2012. Sports Direct has been stuffing its tills with blue pounds ever since courtesy of Green’s incredible generosity.

 

His old pal Derek Llambias was even invited into Ibrox around the same time to strike a deal which saw Ashley buy the stadium’s naming rights for a pound.

 

Llambias now sits at the head of the board in his role as CEO but he too has been around this saga for longer than most will have realised. He owns 51 per cent of a PR firm called Keith Bishop Associates who, around the time of that IPO, were invoicing former Finance Director Brian Stockbridge for all manner of sums without ever appearing to engage in any actual PR for the club.

 

Stranger still, these payments were being signed off at a time when Green was hiring his own PR guru.

 

Ironically, Llambias was appointed to the Rangers board late in 2014, not long after the Keith Bishop contract had been terminated by his predecessor Graham Wallace. Intriguing isn’t it?

 

So on Monday afternoon I contacted Keith Bishop, who acts as Ashley’s official spokesperson, by phone earlier to ask him about some of this mysterious stuff. He requested I submit any questions via an email. That email landed in his inbox less than half an hour later.

 

It took him until last night to respond in an email which read: “This company’s relationship with its clients are, and remain, confidential and not open to be discussed in the public domain.” All of which just goes to prove that it’s getting harder and harder to get a straight answer to anything Rangers related these days.

 

So is Ashley really asset-stripping Rangers? Or is he gearing up for a massive game of negotiation poker with King and a new board? That would certainly seem the more logical view. But then again, this is Rangers. Logic left the building some time ago.

 

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/keith-jackson-mike-ashleys-rangers-5062140

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His old pal Derek Llambias was even invited into Ibrox around the same time to strike a deal which saw Ashley buy the stadium’s naming rights for a pound.

 

Llambias now sits at the head of the board in his role as CEO but he too has been around this saga for longer than most will have realised. He owns 51 per cent of a PR firm called Keith Bishop Associates who, around the time of that IPO, were invoicing former Finance Director Brian Stockbridge for all manner of sums without ever appearing to engage in any actual PR for the club.

 

Stranger still, these payments were being signed off at a time when Green was hiring his own PR guru.

 

Ironically, Llambias was appointed to the Rangers board late in 2014, not long after the Keith Bishop contract had been terminated by his predecessor Graham Wallace. Intriguing isn’t it?

 

So on Monday afternoon I contacted Keith Bishop, who acts as Ashley’s official spokesperson, by phone earlier to ask him about some of this mysterious stuff. He requested I submit any questions via an email. That email landed in his inbox less than half an hour later.

 

It took him until last night to respond in an email which read: “This company’s relationship with its clients are, and remain, confidential and not open to be discussed in the public domain.” All of which just goes to prove that it’s getting harder and harder to get a straight answer to anything Rangers related these days.

 

Good to see some of the past Llambias involvement with Rangers being spelled out.

 

Not forgetting, the man who over 2 years ago signed off those invoices for KBA (non-existant PR) was the same man who Llambias entertained only a couple of months ago at the 5 star Mar Hall Hotel, one Brian Stockbridge.

 

Stockbridge who at the time of signing off the mysterious KBA invoices (there was a contract in place) was not only RIFC Finance Director but also represented Rangers (alongside Green) on the Rangers Retail board.

Edited by buster.
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The following is an excellent CRO piece on KBA which provides further information.

 

http://www.thecoplandroad.org/2014/09/what-was-mike-ashleys-preferred-pr-firm.html#more

 

What Was Mike Ashley's Preferred PR Firm Invoicing Rangers For?

 

A PR firm which acts for Mike Ashley at Newcastle has invoiced Rangers for fees despite doing no obvious work for the club.

 

Keith Bishop Associates (KBA) are closely linked to Ashley and list Newcastle Utd as a client on their website. It is understood that Charles Green claimed to Ibrox staff that KBA were retained as part of the Sports Direct retail deal.

 

The invoice below, along with others over what is believed to have been an initial 16-18 month deal, was received by perplexed Rangers employees who queried it. They were told by then Finance Director, Brian Stockbridge, that invoices from KBA had to be paid despite no explanation being provided about what work KBA had done for Rangers.

 

After Charles Green left the club, Stockbridge was instructed to travel to London to terminate the contract with Keith Bishop but Stockbridge returned with the contract still in place. Sources have told CRO that Club employees were disgusted that at a time when costs were being cut all over, and people were losing their jobs, these invoices were taking money out of already stretched budgets. KBA were invoicing at a time when Jack Irvine's Mediahouse were also retained by Rangers as expensive PR consultants.

 

There is no suggestion that Ashley himself received money from the deal but the employment of KBA was linked to the Sports Direct deal which Charles Green agreed with Ashley.

 

Newspaper reports in recent days have claimed that Ashley was handed the naming rights to Ibrox by Charles Green for only £1 and it also now appears that Ashley has full control of all of Rangers Retail operations after the club shops were absorbed by Sports Direct. It appears unlikely that the deal with Sports Direct will net the club nearly as much as the previous retail deal with JJB, which was also heavily criticised as being undervalued.

 

Rangers fans are likely to be further concerned that this PR firm linked to Ashley could have received payments in the region of £10,000 a month despite most people at Ibrox having no idea what, if anything, they did for club. It is not clear if KBA are still receiving money from the club or if the contract has now run its course.

 

 

Keith%2BBishop%2Binvoice.jpg

Edited by buster.
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The funny thing is we have the SFA to thank for stopping Ashley geting his 29% of the club. I am not sure if the extra shares would have come from the already Ashley coloured shares but I hate to think what would have happened if he was allowed to have a large majority of the shares. I don't think there would have been any way back if that had happened.

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The funny thing is we have the SFA to thank for stopping Ashley geting his 29% of the club. I am not sure if the extra shares would have come from the already Ashley coloured shares but I hate to think what would have happened if he was allowed to have a large majority of the shares. I don't think there would have been any way back if that had happened.

 

Did Ashley really want those shares ?

His MO is to get as much commercial and retail value/revenue out of us as possible but at the mimimum of cost.

 

Providing loans is power and he also gets his money back.

 

If the SFA were prepared to call him out on an obvious MASH Holdings breach in the agreement they had with Ashley, they now appear like their bluff has been called and the insipid leadership have kicked the can down the road hoping it will all go away.

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