It emerged on Wednesdy night that Mike Ashley had taken hurried legal action against Rangers and that the two sides would be represented in a London courtroom only 24 hours before the special Rangers shareholders general meeting the Newcastle owner has forced for Friday.
The Sports Direct division of his empire had lodged papers at the High Court Chancery Division and the exact nature of the legal action remained secret until proceedings that began around noon, delayed after a previous case over-ran.
It turned out that as expected, the court proceedings revolved around Mike Ashley and his retail empire wanting to keep secret all details of their contractual details with Rangers.
The Sports Direct counsel started by saying he was seeking an interim injunction to stop confidential information being released at the Rangers EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting).
The counsel for Rangers said that they would agree to keep ‘some’ parts of the contracts confidential but the Sports Direct (SD) legal counsel said that this ‘did not go far enough’.
The SD counsel said that information regarding the percentage of income going to Rangers from merchandise shouldn’t be disclosed and said that the public (which obviously includes the ordinary Rangers shareholders!) ‘do not have a legitimate interest in this information’.
The SD counsel going on to say; ‘There’s no particular urgency why the shareholders need to be told this at the meeting’.
During the court proceedings much of the talk revolved around the seven year notice period that had become public knowledge, Rangers having to give Sports Direct that astonishing seven year warning if they wanted to withdraw from their joint merchandising contract.
Whilst there was much debate as to exactly how that 7 year notice clause came into the public domain, the Judge said she noted there had been no denial from Rangers’ counsel that the board had leaked confidential information to the Daily Record
The Judge agreed to the injunction from Sports Direct over commercial confidentiality with regard to tomorrow’s Rangers EGM and said with regard to the previous leak(s), ‘The damage is done and there’s no way to make compensation’.
The Sports Direct counsel then thanked the Judge for her decision and then went on to ask for costs.
When SD counsel made clear to the Judge just how much (a figure not revealed) they were looking for in terms of ‘costs’, she said she was ‘flabbergasted’ by the size of the costs Mike Ashley’s people were asking for and described them as ‘shocking’.
After deliberating, Mrs Justice Asplin ordered a lower amount of £20,000 in costs to be paid by Rangers to Sports Direct, this was despite the SD counsel arguing that amongst the costs claimed, was compensation for ‘twenty four hours of phone calls’.
Mike Ashley has used his 9% shareholding in Rangers to demand Friday’s shareholders meeting, his shares being held within his company MASH Holdings which is also where his complete ownership/100% shareholding of Newcastle United is also held.
It was MASH that demanded the meeting and not Sports Direct, though the main aim of calling for the meeting is that Ashley wants to force Rangers into paying back the £5m loan to Sports Direct with immediate effect.
Rangers’ main man Dave King had threatened to use the shareholders meeting to expose the real truth of what the club’s shocking commercial contracts were with Mike Ashley’s empire.
As for the contract terms between Rangers and Mike Ashley’s retail empire, I’m guessing details will eventually emerge one way or another.
As for the way deals work between Newcastle United and the rest of Mike Ashley’s empire….I’m not so sure.