Sandy Easdale increases Rangers stake as Murray predicts change

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland
Sandy Easdale
Sandy Easdale and his brother James are seen to be aligned to Rangers shareholder Mike Ashley

Sandy Easdale has strengthened his stake in Rangers with the purchase of more than one million ordinary shares.

News that the football board's chairman now has 6.45% of the issued share capital was followed by a prediction of the current regime's demise.

Former Rangers director Paul Murray said: "Change will come and we can all emerge from a black period in this fantastic club's history."

Murray has joined two fans groups campaigning to oust the current board.

The Scottish businessman has taken out lifetime memberships of the Rangers Supporters Trust and Rangers First, two groups that hold shares in Rangers International Football Club.

Easdale on Friday bought 1,014,000 ordinary shares of 1p to take his stake to 5,256,110.

But the purchase by the Greenock-based businessman does not increase his overall voting rights, which remain at just over 26%.

Paul Murray
Former Rangers director Paul Murray has urged fans to back supporters groups trying to buy shares

The list of shareholders indicates that Easdale bought the shares from within the group for whom he holds a proxy.

His purchase comes against a backdrop of financial turmoil at Ibrox.

Former Rangers director Dave King, who has a 15% share in the cash-strapped Scottish Championship club, has called for a general meeting at which he hopes shareholders will vote to remove the four directors - chairman David Somers, Sandy Easdale's younger brother, James, chief executive Derek Llambias and finance director Barry Leach - from the board.

However, Rangers have since issued a statement to the Stock Exchange saying they intend to seek the withdrawal of the notice, alluding to whether King would pass the Stock Exchange and Scottish Football Association "fit and proper person" rules.

The South Africa-based businessman hopes to have himself, Murray and John Gilligan, the former MD of Tennents, appointed to the board.

Murray has urged the club's fans to play an active role in forcing boardroom change and pledged that the three would-be directors are "committed to meaningful fan ownership and representation".

Urging Rangers fans to give their support to RST and Rangers First, he said: "The fans can play a hugely significant part in forcing change through votes.

"In the lead up to the general meeting, the usual suspects will attempt to undermine our cause because they realise their days could be numbered.

"The truth is that, for the first time in years, there is a group of people capable of rebuilding and repairing our club and malicious speculation will not deflect us."

Rangers caretaker manager Kenny McDowall
Kenny McDowall has taken training despite handing in his notice

King, who owns almost 15% of RIFC, is confident that he has the support of more than 50% of shareholders, with a simple majority required to vote through his proposals.

Three Rangers-supporting businessmen - Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor - currently own 20% of RIFC between them, while River & Mercantile owns around 5%.

Along with individual shareholders like former Rangers managers Ally McCoist and Walter Smith, former chairman Malcolm Murray and London-based Kieron Prior, who are supportive of King, the RST and Rangers First both now own a little more than 1% each.

The Scottish Championship club, whose caretaker manager, Kenny McDowall, handed in his notice on Monday, needs cash urgently to continue as a going concern.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, who has an 8.92% stake in Rangers, has offered a loan of £10m but wants Ibrox Stadium and the Murray Park training ground as security.

That move triggered a protest by fans at Ibrox on Friday before and after the abandoned game against league leaders Hearts.