Rangers shareholders defy Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s £5m loan demand

Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

A majority of Rangers shareholders have voted against Mike Ashley’s demand that the club immediately repay a £5m loan dished out by his Sports Direct empire.

The Newcastle United owner – who also holds a 8.92 per cent stake in Rangers – called a general meeting at Ibrox last Friday.

But shareholders backed chairman Dave King’s board – who urged them to turn down Ashley’s resolution – as 53.64 per cent of those taking part voted against the billionaire tycoon.

However, a second resolution, this time proposed by the club, which called for Sports Direct’s controversial retail deal with the Scottish Championship outfit to be renegotiated on a “fair and reasonable” basis was backed by 62.5 per cent of shareholders.

Turnout for both votes was around 78 per cent.

The previous Ashley-backed board of directors borrowed the cash back in January as they lurched towards another cash crisis.

But the sportswear magnate used the opportunity to take security over Murray Park and the club’s iconic badges. He also grabbed a further 26 per cent share of the profits from Rangers Retail Limited, a company he already owned a 49 per cent stake in.

However, a boardroom coup launched by King back in March forced out Ashley’s right-hand men Derek Llambias and Barry Leach, and set the South Africa-based businessman on a collision course with the Londoner, ranked the 318th richest man in the world by Forbes magazine.

Ashley demanded the new Rangers regime return his money as well as demanding a detailed explanation for why Rangers were thrown off the AIM stock exchange just days after King’s board took power.

But he then took the club to court in order to gag them from revealing details of the retail contract, which according to the latest club accounts made Rangers no money at all.

King claimed even if Ashley had succeeded in winning Friday’s vote, his board would not have been forced to pay back the £5m loan.

But speaking at the general meeting last week, director John Gilligan urged supporters to “trust” the board after admitting they were not yet ready to settle their debts with Ashley.

He said: “We are asking for the trust of the shareholders in this matter that it is not in the best interests of the club or the business to repay the loan.

“Dave King, (director) Douglas Park and (investors) George Letham and George Taylor, if you count their share purchases, their investment in the business is over £8m. That’s not a sum to be dismissed.

“This board in a very short space of time has faced challenges that need to be addressed brick by brick. We are in a stadium that needs renovating, have an office staff that has been completely reduced to almost impractical terms.

“But we have inherited fantastic people – trust us, please.”