Rangers: Dave King needs allies as power struggle continues

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Ibrox Stadium
Mike Ashley's call for an emergency general meeting has intensified the battle for power at Ibrox

Paul Murray is nothing if not persistent.

The former Rangers director was involved in an 11th-hour attempt to derail Craig Whyte's Ibrox takeover in 2011. He had another shot at ownership as part of the Blue Knights the following year.

A third intervention came last year, when he tried to bring about boardroom change in the guise of a requisitioner.

All of those endeavours had one thing in common - they failed. They failed for all sorts of different reasons, but they failed nonetheless.

And, after the last failure, he indicated he was going to walk away and not come back to this wretched power struggle, but he has. He is reportedly prepared to go again, as part of Dave King and George Letham's supposed bid for power.external-link

But any offer is already undermined by two factors. Number one, it's been leaked prematurely. Number two, King is professing to know nothing about it.

The bid, if it is a bid as opposed to yet more talk, is already on the back foot. As campaigns go, this one looks remarkably similar to its failed predecessors.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley is seeking the removal of two prominent board members at Ibrox

Murray is an undoubted Rangers man and all those who know him would attest that he has the club's best interests at heart, unlike so many others who have flitted in and out of this unending drama. He is also an obsessive and a touch masochistic.

It is to his credit that he cannot stand by and see his club being rag-dolled by people who have no feel for it or connection with it other than to squeeze as much cash out of it as is possible.

There is a weariness though about stories of would-be saviours at Ibrox. How many have we had now? Stories, that is. Not saviours.

Scepticism is the only defence. It's the only way to treat the reports that King, Murray and Letham are about to make a move.

If you were the type to believe in them, then a dose of reality might have hit you straight between the eyes on Wednesday morning when Mike Ashley, the largest individual shareholder at the club, called for an emergency general meeting to remove the two men on the Rangers PLC board, Graham Wallace and Philip Nash, who are minded to support King, Murray and Letham.

Remember the last guy who came out in support of King? Craig Mather, the former chief executive. And we all know what happened to Mather. There is a ruthlessness at play in this Rangers story and it's borne out of rich men doing what they need to do to protect their own interests.

Tom English, BBC Scotland
"Say what you like about Ashley, but he is to the point. He does not talk about doing something, he just goes and does it."

This is not about football with Ashley. It's about launching the attack dogs on anybody who threatens the commercial interests he has at Rangers, those lovely earners given to him for a song by former chief executive Charles Green.

Say what you like about Ashley, but he is to the point. He does not talk about doing something, he just goes and does it.

Six days ago he upped his shareholding to 8.9% and strengthened his hand. He would rather stick pins in his eyes than jump into bed with the Scottish media and drip-feed snippets of news, as many have done in the past.

He is the realpolitik of this situation. The guy who operates in the shadows and gets things done before anybody knows what he is up to.

King is a shrewd man, a ferocious fighter as evidenced by his epic showdown with the South African revenue services.

So you have two very rich men on either side of the battle line; one, King, who has an emotional connection with the club and wants to make it relevant again, and the other, Ashley, who just wants the cash.

In between, you have all sorts of characters - Sandy Easdale, Laxey, Blue Pitch Holdings, Margarita Holdings, a gamut of people yet to win supporter approval.

Former Rangers director Dave King
Former Rangers director Dave King wants a new share issue at Ibrox

If Ashley wanted anything else bar a steady flow of income - ownership, for instance - you fancy that he would have made his move by now. He has not.

All the signs are that he just wants to keep the club ticking over so he can hoover up the benefits from his commercial contracts.

Anybody who threatens to get in the way of that is in for a pretty torrid time. Hence, the move against Wallace and Nash.

If King's interest in Rangers is grounded in any kind of reality then there is one guy that he needs to speak to - Ashley. King's game plan involves a share issue that sees him invest new money while diluting the influence of institutional investors.

He is going to need friends - or fewer enemies. For a start, he needs Ashley with him or, at least not against him.

The way to Ashley's heart is through his wallet so any prospective bid by King ought to guarantee that the Newcastle owner's contracts remain in place - however egregious that might be to all Rangers people - and that these contracts will be renewed on expiration on more favourable terms to the club.

The supporters can try boycotts and protests outside Ashley's stores but surely they all know by now that he has a rear end made of leather.

King's interest in becoming a force at Rangers will not be judged by the amount of times he - or his supposed takeover team - appear on the back page of the newspapers.

It will be judged by what he's doing behind the scenes, where Ashley does his business.

If, indeed, he's doing anything different to the rest of us - sitting and watching a soap era seemingly without an end.

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