Rangers fans criticise share deal for former director

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Rangers fans in red card protest
Rangers fans in a red card protest against the board last season

A Rangers supporters' group has reacted angrily to former finance director Brian Stockbridge receiving a lucrative share option.

The Union of Fans believes he should not have received the stock, worth around £215,000.

The UoF also announced the closure of their Ibrox 1972 season ticket fund.

The decision was taken after the club's board refused to grant legal undertakings that Ibrox and Murray Park would not be used for loan security.

It was revealed in an announcement to the Stock Exchange that 714,285 shares were being issued after Stockbridge exercised a stock option that was part of his previous contract of employment.

Under the terms of his agreement, he was entitled to receive shares to the value of 2.5 times his annual salary - of £200,000 - with the amount of shares issued based upon the 70p valuation when Rangers International Football Club was launched on the Alternative Investment Market in December 2013.

At that price, 714,285 shares are worth £500,000, and Stockbridge only had to pay 1p per share as part of the agreement, effectively granting him a £214,000 bonus, based upon the current share price of 30p.

"The terms of Mr Stockbridge's share options entitlement were part of his contract of employment with The Rangers Football Club dated September 2012, as was agreed with the Charles Green consortium following the acquisition of the Rangers assets in June 2012," explained the club in a statement.

"The exercise price of the option shares to which Mr Stockbridge became contractually entitled in September 2012 was 1p per share. He has paid the exercise price to the company.

"The current board was legally compelled to issue the shares to Mr Stockbridge on these terms as it has no jurisdiction to amend, change or alter the share issue, whatever its opinion of this agreement - a legacy of the previous regime."

However, the UoF believe that the share option entitlement should have ended after the former finance director left the club in January 2014.

He had been the subject of a number of heated questions by shareholders at the AGM and chief executive Graham Wallace was critical of the previous running of the club in his business review.

"It is the current board's position that Brian Stockbridge was contractually entitled to these shares and it was therefore outwith their control. We reject this entirely," said UoF in a statement.

"That this board allowed a compromise agreement to be signed, on termination of Mr Stockbridge's contract, is a disgrace. His share option entitlement and any other financial benefit which Mr Stockbridge was due should have been removed as part of his contract termination.

"When a question was asked on this topic [at the AGM], the clear inference from (chairman) Mr (David) Somers was that this would not be an issue due to the option price of 70p, which at that time was almost twice the market value of the shares.

"Mr Somers gave the impression that the option would not be taken due to the drop in share value. At no point did either Mr Stockbridge or Mr Somers make it clear that this option could be exercised for 1p a share.

"Charles Green had a similar clause in his contract which entitled him to 1,028,571 shares. Can the board confirm whether this option was also allowed to remain following Mr Green's contract termination?"

The 1972 fund was launched to provide supporters with an alternative use for their season ticket money. The plan for the fund, backed by former captain Richard Gough and former director Dave King, was to only release the money to the board in return for season tickets if the directors provided legally binding undertakings that Ibrox and Murray Park would not be used for security against borrowings.

Despite a meeting with Wallace and other directors, and ongoing correspondence, no agreement could be reached, so the fund is to be disbanded and UoF are urging fans to only buy tickets on a game-by-game basis.

"Despite repeated attempts to engage with Graham Wallace and the board over the issue of a binding legal commitment not to sell or lease back Ibrox or Murray Park, we have been unable to come to any agreement.

"It seems the board are happy to continue to alienate the thousands of fans who have supported our efforts through the Ibrox 1972 fund.

"We are left with no option but to release all those who have supported the fund from their binding financial commitment. We urge fans not to give their money to this regime in a lump sum payment via season tickets and to support the team on a game-by-game basis."