The Rangers board has rejected Robert Sarver's £18m takeover bid after claiming it does not "adequately value a controlling interest in the company".
It emerged on Sunday night that the owner of the NBA's Phoenix Suns wanted to buy a controlling stake in the crisis-hit Ibrox outfit. But the recent purchases of significant shareholdings by Dave King and the Three Bears group – the wealthy fans Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor – soon made any such move highly unlikely.
And now the club's directors – who are still looking for emergency cash, despite announcing a £500,000 loan from football board chairman Sandy Easdale on Monday – have confirmed they have knocked back Sarver's offer.
However, they have encouraged him to work with other supporters to help find a solution to Rangers’ financial problems,
In a 7am statement to the London Stock exchange, the board announced: “The proposal by Mr Sarver comprises a placing of 100 million shares at 18p (“Placing”) which, if approved by shareholders at a general meeting, would be immediately followed by an unconditional offer at 18p pursuant to Rule 9 of the Code. The placing would give Mr Sarver control of Rangers.
“While the Directors welcome Mr Sarver’s approach, they believe that, notwithstanding the current financial difficulties, the proposal does not adequately value a controlling interest in the company and accordingly the resolution to approve the placing is unlikely to achieve the 75% majority required. The directors do not intend to hold the General Meeting which would be necessary to implement the proposal.
“The company is managing its cash resources carefully and will require further funding before the end of January. The directors are in discussions with Rangers’ significant stakeholders with a view to arranging finance for the club. This is likely to comprise loans in the short term and possibly equity in the medium term. The board has invited Mr Sarver to consider participating in a similar discussion alongside other supportive shareholders.”
Sarver made his offer just after Christmas after being encouraged to take a look at the ailing Glasgow giants by former Ibrox defender David Robertson – now a successful youth football director in Phoenix, Arizona.
However, his chances of success were soon reduced as King and the Three Bears bought up almost 34% of the club in two surprise transactions.
The board voted down its own resolution nine at last month’s AGM to allow shares to be handed to new investors without first being offered to existing shareholders. That meant Sarver’s bid would require the support of 75% of the club’s stakeholders.
But while the club have rejected Sarver’s initial bid they will need someone to offer them help if they are to avoid a second administration event in three years.
The Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley remains the key figure. While his 8.92% stake is not as sizeable as the likes of King's, the £3m crisis loan he handed out late last year, combined with the retail deal he controls, puts him in a position of considerable strength.
He has already placed Derek Llambias - his former Newcastle manager director - on the board as chief executive and made another move on Monday as he handed the financial director's job to associate Barry Leach.
That could yet put him in trouble with the Scottish Football Association - which has already charged him with breaching “duel ownership” rules and barred him from extending his shareholding to just under 30%.