Mike Ashley – Cuckoo In The Nest
I sometimes wonder about the full catalogue of qualities necessary to become rich. Which, you will be unsurprised to hear, I am not.
Then I think about the necessary secondary qualities for possessing the first lot annd I’m so glad I’m poor…
What can it really be like in the nightmarish world of Mike Ashley?
He is a man at ease with being hated. He has the sociopath’s capacity for revelling in adversity.
Then I think: well, he won’t have the appetite to be truly hated and scorned at both Rangers and Newcastle, because that would be so uncomfortable, so he will plainly be selling Newcastle soon. And then my experience of the dreadful, horrid, cynical oaf tells me that I can’t even be sure about that.
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But then I reflect that basing my thinking on normal emotions is not going to lead me to any proper conclusions in the case of a sociopath. So I resort to facts, and I find to my relief that I am surer today than I have ever been (and I fully and humbly acknowledge I have made some incorrect predictions about the timing of Ashley’s plans to sell up in the past) that we will soon be free of Ashley.
Judge for yourselves. Here are those facts:
1) Ashley, through MASH, the company of his that owns his personal shareholdings, has issued a notice to require the board of Rangers to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting of all shareholders under section 303 of the Companies Act 2006.
2) The stated purpose of the meeting will be to compel the resignation of the chief executive of Rangers and the club’s financial controller. He will need a simple majority of the shareholders’ votes to do this and must think he has a good chance.
3) The directors of Rangers really don’t like this idea at all.
They have stated that they will challenge the validity of the notice from MASH, and if unsuccessful at this will resist the motion that Ashley will put to the meeting, and claim the board of directors of Rangers is totally supportive of the two directors concerned.
4) Ashley has targeted the two directors most relevant to his self- evident and transparent plan to mount a takeover at Rangers. He has named Graham Wallace, the chief executive, and Philip Nash, the finance director. Wallace has been hopeless at dealing with Ashley and has lost the support of the board in terms of day-to-day policy.
Meanwhile it’s been Nash who’s taken up the running of the club, and commands the loyalty of the other directors, whom Ashley rightly judges to be irrelevant to his takeover. So Ashley is getting rid of the true main man, and at the same time is shafting the nowhere man who calls himself the boss, who would address any meeting on behalf of the club.
5) Ashley, in his misleading statement recently about his intentions at Rangers, he said, quite correctly, that he was not going to participate in the ‘current’ offer to buy shares at Rangers (to help pay the club wages), while shortly afterwards spending £850,000 on shares from Hargreave Hale. Ashley has also declared that he isn’t going to sell Newcastle until, at the earliest, the end of next season. But I don’t think the date of a sale of Newcastle United is within his control any more.
6) The most pressing problem at Rangers, a club plainly on the up in terms of league placings, is that they are spending more than they can afford. The snag is that the amount they can afford is not enough to maintain the club. Guess what Ashley thinks about that?
And guess who Ashley thinks is just the guy to sort this out?
7) The new urgent issue at Rangers is the December payroll. The recent share issue, in which Rangers were humiliated by having to issue shares to raise money to pay wages, was not completely successful. Now the club needs more money. It’s almost as if Ashley deliberately wounded Rangers by not helping last time, but now is coming along to apply the coup de grace. He was first the picador, and now he’s the matador. Ole!
8) Ashley is up to the maximum shareholding that the Scottish FA’s Articles of Association permit. If he raises his shareholding from the current nine per cent, he will need the permission of the SFA under Article 13. He must be aware that this permission would be denied. He must in the recent past have investigated what the SFA’s reaction was likely to be. He would love to help Rangers out by becoming more powerful and gaining more shares. In this way he can continue to ride two horses at once – Newcastle and Rangers. But he can’t. He would have to stop one of them ever getting into Europe if he owned both.
9) Equally, Ashley cannot possibly allow Rangers to default on the December payroll. This would disrupt the players just when he needs their support to perform well in the league and to get Rangers promoted again. But, at the same time, he is not going to lend the club money when he is not yet the owner. Lending the club money when he is the owner, as we know, will not be a problem. He is, above all else, a control freak. He hates borrowing unless it leads to a tax benefit for himself.
10) Now is the time to make his move, perhaps at an earlier moment than he had envisaged. He is going to put in two placemen (he never uses women in executive positions) of his own choosing on the Rangers board to do his bidding. He will then put in train a series of decisions arrogating power to himself that the old Rangers board cannot possibly agree with. That, in my view, will be the moment when Ashley jettisons Newcastle and takes over at Rangers completely. That moment is certainly getting nearer.
There will be those who disagree with the analysis I have made of the above facts. What is unarguable, surely, is that Rangers is now in a chronically destabilised condition. And it’s Mike Ashley who has destabilised that great club.
He doesn’t care. He loves being the cuckoo in the nest. As Rangers are shortly going to find out, the cuckoo is dropping their club out of the tree. Mike Ashley, the man who has to be in control, is reverting to type.
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