There’s dancing on the streets of Glasgow, as Friday afternoon has seen confirmation that Mike Ashley has sold his 8.92% shareholding in Rangers.
Seemingly set to be joined at the hip in perpetuity, Thursday had witnessed the revelation that the long-term crippling (for Rangers) retail deals with Sports Direct had been ripped up, replaced instead with an arm’s-length normal business arrangement of one year, where Rangers bank the majority of retail profits flowing from their relationship with Ashley/SD.
At that time, Ranger Chairman Dave King indicated that an announcement was almost certain to follow, confirm that Mike Ashley had also sold his near 9% stake in the Glasgow club.
The news of the retail deal changes had seen Rangers fans flocking back to buy official merchandise and today’s news will be a big fat cherry on the cake.
Various media, including Sky Sports, have confirmed Ashley’s sale of shares, whilst in an official statement, the football club have confirmed that it is Mike Ashley’s shares that have been sold.
The ‘Club 1872’ fans group have paid £1m for 50% of the Ashley shareholding, with Julian Wolhardt acquiring the other 50%.
Wolhardt’s business is based in Hing Kong and he has had all kinds of business dealings in China.
Newcastle fans could be forgiven for wondering, even momentarily, whether it is pure coincidence that the claims of Mike Ashley potentially selling Newcastle United to Chinese investors, has come along at the same time as his Rangers activity, especially the fact Wolfhardt is one of those he has sold to.
Rangers fans are celebrating today and no doubt wondering about the sanity of the minority of Newcastle supporters who believe it is ‘better the devil you know’ with Mike Ashley.
Rangers Official Statement 23 June 2017:
RANGERS chairman Dave King has welcomed news that Club 1872 and Julian Wolhardt have each made a £1m investment in shares in Rangers International Football Club PLC.
The purchase marks a significant milestone for Rangers and follows completion of the renegotiation of the Club’s retail deals earlier this week. When seeking regime change at Ibrox, Mr King committed to work with Rangers supporters for the benefit of the Club and seeing Club 1872 increase its stake to almost 11% is a massive endorsement of that strategy.
“This is the partnership I want to see lead Rangers forward,” the Chairman said. “Rangers run by those who care for it most, not what has been dismissively described by some as “fans with calculators,” but a mature and structured organisation which can galvanise and represent our supporters and use their skills and talents to drive our Club back to the top of Scottish and European Football”.
Mr King is also delighted to welcome Julian Wolhardt on board as an investor and said: “Julian’s decision to invest in Rangers is exciting for the Club. His business background and acumen are exceptional and it is very pleasing that his scrutiny of the Club and its strategy has convinced him of our financial prospects and the merits of our business plan.”
Julian Juul Wolhardt, 44, is the CEO of Dehong Capital Partners (“DCP”), a Hong Kong based private equity firm. Prior to establishing DCP in 2017, Mr. Wolhardt spent ten years at KKR, a leading global private equity firm, as a Partner and Regional Leader. Before joining KKR, Mr. Wolhardt was responsible for the China business at Morgan Stanley Private Equity Asia, worked in the Mergers and Acquisition Group of Lazard Freres & Co. in the United States and started his career at Coopers and Lybrand.
Mr. Wolhardt has made a substantial number of successful investments in China and currently serves as a board director for listed companies China Mengniu Dairy, China Modern Dairy, Fujian Sunner Development and COFCO Meat.
Julian Wolhardt said, “I am delighted to become an RIFC shareholder. I have a long held love for Scotland and football and I am keen to see Rangers FC unlock its considerable commercial potential. With the successful restructuring of the retail operations, RIFC is now on a firm financial footing and I look forward to being a part of its exciting future.”
A spokesperson for Club 1872 said: “We are delighted that our members’ support for Club 1872 has brought us to a point where we can acquire those shares and complete the process of restoring control of RIFC to those who view the footballing success of Rangers FC as being just as important as RIFC’s careful stewardship financially.
Club 1872 allows Rangers supporters to help safeguard the future of our Club. Taking our shareholding above 10% puts us well on our way to that goal.
“Our next ambition is to reach out to those Rangers supporters who are not already members of Club 1872 and encourage them to join. Together we can achieve great things for our Club.”