David Leggat has shown by his insight into the internal affairs of Rangers that he still has a fine nose for a scoop.
He spotted the apparent flaws in Mr Green at an early stage, repeatedly calling him a snake-oil salesman. And even though, as the year progressed, he became one of the biggest cheerleaders for Mr Green and his consortium, he could be excused for having been led into misjudging the soon-to-be former Director.
It would be unfair to hold his change of mind against him, and in fact I am sure he would be quick to claim that he had been right about Mr Green from the start.
Yesterday too he indicated his prescience, pointing out that he had used his contacts to find out about and publicise the freezing of season ticket prices well in advance of the official announcement from Rangers.
As a man with his finger on the pulse, it is clear that he is privy to thoughts inside Ibrox.
On Tuesday he indicated that Dave King “may be poised” to bid £10 million to buy effective control of Rangers – effective control being 25% to 28% of the shares. As Mr King lost the £20 million he invested in oldco Rangers, he is either awash with money, or sees how matters can be run differently. He is obviously a clever man of business – as Mr Leggat reported, whilst his assets inside South Africa remain frozen, Mr King has been able, as a result no doubt of fine and expensive advice, to accumulate a fortune outside South Africa which is no longer under attack by the South African tax authorities.
Bearing in mind the fragmentation of the shareholding and the various different major players, one wonders how such a shareholding would give Mr King effective control.
On wonders too how Mr King would deal with the “fit and proper” person issue – not just over his long running battle with the South African tax authorities over alleged tax evasion, but also through him having been a director of Rangers FC PLC when it went into administration. One assumes though that, if he intends to pay £10 million for a quarter of the company, he will have laid his groundwork carefully.
The main point though of this post is to express my surprise that such a measured writer as Mr Leggat, a veteran journalist and therefore fully aware of the laws of defamation, has made very serious allegations against some involved with his beloved club.
He has frequently before challenged people about whom he has written to sue, and said that failure to do so implies acceptance of his accusation. That does ignore the many reasons why someone would choose not to pursue a court action – impecuniosity of the proposed defender being one of them, although Mr Leggat’s very successful book about the manager Rangers sacked for not being Jock Stein may well have accrued sufficient to make it worthwhile suing him!
So what has he done this time?
After discussing Mr King, he refers to the Easdale brothers, keen to buy more shares and to get a seat or two in the boardroom. However he sees them as busted flushes already – as a consequence of them having given an interview to Chris McLaughlin of the BBC. Mr Leggat knows the Ibrox fan base far better than I do, so I won’t challenge his opinion that the act of being interviewed by Mr McLaughlin will taint forever the chances of the Easdales achieving their goals with the approval of the fans. Alienating one’s customers is not generally a good idea!
One wonders though how the investors who bought at or before the IPO to make money might feel. Is it truly the case that an interview with the BBC, the national broadcaster, is sufficient to see off people willing to spend lots of money for the shares, and to bring their undoubted business acumen to bear?
He then goes on to refer to the Easdales’ reference to them buying or agreeing to buy Mr Green’s shares. So far so good.
But then, twice, he goes on to state that this “may have been a ploy” to keep the share price high.
It is a quite scurrilous suggestion, and one which would be actionable, in my view, to allege that investors in a PLC were engaged, whether with the former CEO or not, in a “ploy” to keep share prices high.
This would, amongst other matters, amount to an allegation of “market fixing” and as such be liable to criminal penalties. The Easdale brothers have gone from strength to strength following the gaol sentence imposed on one of them for VAT fraud many years ago. They have built McGill’s Buses into a major player in Scottish public transport. The brothers have withstood vague mutterings about their alleged wrongdoings over many years, and the Scottish Traffic Commissioner condemned this whispering campaign against them.
Mr Leggat, a man with many Ibrox connections, clearly insinuates that there is a “ploy” to keep the share price high and that the Easdales are party to it. The implication seems too to be that Mr Green is involved as well – otherwise he could simply deny any suggestion of a sale.
Rangers International Football Club PLC is, and rightly so, concerned to make sure that all of its dealings fulfil its requirements regarding the law of the land and those concerning the Stock Market.
Indeed, prior to the IPO, I myself received a letter, delivered by two Sheriff Officers at 10.30 pm one night, from their lawyers prevailing upon me to remove certain items from this blog as they considered them to be potentially damaging to the share issue and as such “market abuse” by me. And, as I mentioned before, this was to be done by midnight that night – 90 minutes after receipt of the letter!
I did not agree with the points they raised, but discretion is the better part of valour.
So, either Mr Leggat is hopelessly wrong and might expect to be on the receiving end of action from the Easdales who would have been grossly defamed, or else the wily old reporter’s contacts have given him sufficient information to allow him to make the allegation of market abuse with a clear mind and conscience.
In the absence though of any evidence at all to the latter effect, then we must fall back on the safe assumption that indeed the Easdales are victims of a vile calumny at the hands of Mr Leggat.
Mr Leggat must hope that, if the Easdales do succeed in their plans, they are as forgiving as Mr Green. After all, Mr Green allowed Ibrox to be used for the launch of Mr Leggat’s book – a very open hearted gesture to a man who repeatedly called you a snake-oil salesman!
Would the Easdales take any action against Mr Leggat – as with so many of the issues in this saga – we can only wait and see!
Posted by Paul McConville