Saturday 28 March 2020


Rangers chairman David Somers pleaded for Mike Ashley takeover to succeed, emails reveal

Ibrox chief feared that he would be sidelined if Newcastle United owner failed to seize control in bitter boardroom battle at Rangers

David Somers - emails reveal Ibrox chief feared being sidelined if Ashley takeover failed
Man in the middle: David Somers (standing) expressed fears over his Ibrox future, emails have revealed Photo: PA

David Somers, the Rangers chairman, pleaded with Mike Ashley’s lawyer not to make a hash of the Newcastle United owner’s bid for control of the Ibrox club because he would be dumped if a rival takeover succeeded, it has emerged.

Evidence of Somers’ frantic attempt to keep the process alive in the face of opposition from other directors is revealed in an email from the chairman and copied to Sandy Easdale, chairman of Rangers’ football board, and his brother James, a member of the plc board.

In it, Somers admits that he and James Easdale were in a minority on the Rangers plc board over the question of Ashley’s designs on the club.

The email, addressed to Justin Barnes, who was acting for Ashley, and under the heading of “SD deal” – in which SD stands for Sports Direct, Ashley’s sportswear retail chain read:

“Why have you changed yesterday’s deal? Particularly for a particularly stupid alternative.

“Meanwhile I have received a formal proposal for a deal from Dave King and my board are clamouring for a board call to discuss it and no doubt approve it. A board on which James and I are in a minority.

“Dave King’s proposal includes board seats, which means Sandy, James and I will not survive on this board very much longer. Yes, you can vote them off at the next AGM but they can do a great deal of damage before then.

“It we are going down this route because you guys are pratting about, then even I will be voting to put out a stock exchange announcement that we are terminating Sports Directs (sic) contract; even though it is one of the last board meetings Sandy and I attend.

“I am very angry about this total stupidity.”

The email has also appeared on a Rangers fan site, which has been threatened with legal action by the club, but The Daily Telegraph has been provided with proof of its provenance. The precise detail of what triggered Somers’ outburst is not clear, but an Ibrox insider said: “There was a good deal of back and forth with detail on the run-up to Ashley’s boardroom coup and it is almost certainly that which got David Somers so agitated.”

Ashley had to fight off a rival £16 million debt and equity package put forward by Dave King, the former Rangers director. Two days before Somers’ email, Ashley asked for an extraordinary general meeting to be held for the purpose of allowing him to propose the removal of Graham Wallace, the Rangers chief executive, and Philip Nash, the finance director.

On the day before the Somers email, it was revealed that Nash and Wallace had been targeted because they had opposed a deal which would have given Ashley the rights to Rangers’ club crest and trademark in return for emergency funding, a proposition which the pair did not believe represented sound commercial value for the club.

Ashley, meanwhile, had helped bring about another financial crisis at Ibrox, first by refusing to take part in Rangers’ equity issue in August and then by increasing his holding through a private share purchase which meant that his money would not go into the club. As The Daily Telegraph revealed on Monday, Ashley also gave up the naming rights to Ibrox stadium – notoriously acquired for £1 from the Charles Green consortium which brought Rangers out of liquidation in 2012 – but in exchange for significant commercial and advertising rights within the ground.

Another deal with Green channelled Rangers’ merchandising through Sports Direct outlets and gave Ashley even more influence over the club’s financial health. With Nash and Wallace firmly opposed to any further Ashley encroachments and Somers and James Easdale in favour – non-executive director, Norman Crighton was undecided – Somers knew that King’s more generous terms might well prevail.

In that case, the email emphasises, the Easdale brothers and Somers would be ousted. The Scarborough-born Somers – a pension fund manager, who is a non-executive director of ACE Europe Life – had been elected chairman only in Nov 2013 but, along with the Easdales, he swiftly became a target for supporters angry at the board’s stewardship of a club lurching from crisis to crisis.

The depth of the continuing grievance became even clearer at Rangers’ annual general meeting at Ibrox on Monday when Somers was loudly and frequently jeered by supporters. At one stage, when heckled for insisting that he would take questions from the floor two at a time, Somers said: “When you get to be chairman of Rangers, you get to do it your way” – a retort that was met by a storm of abuse.

Paul Murray, who was part of the consortium assembled by King when he attempted to outflank Ashley in October, was also in attendance. Murray said: “David Somers has to take a long, hard look at himself.

“It was a shambolic performance as chairman. Whatever happens to the club going forward, he has to go in my opinion.”

The Daily Telegraph asked Somers to expand on the content of the email. The reply, made through Rangers, was: “No comment.”

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