King has held a series of discussions with the principal individuals involved with the situation at Rangers International Football Club, including Sandy Easdale and Paul Murray, but consensus proved out of reach and the forthcoming Annual General Meeting is likely to be a stormy event.
King had hoped to strike an agreement with the two main blocks of shareholders to appoint new directors to the board, including taking on the role of chairman himself, and begin the process of raising additional funding. Speaking exclusively to The Herald before releasing an official statement, King said that administration is "not an imminent threat", but he does believe it "is a distinct possibility if the AGM results in a continuing lack of continuity on one side or the other".
As it currently stands, the shareholders represented by Sandy Easdale and his brother James, who is a non-executive director at Ibrox, account for around 25% of the company. This grouping includes Blue Pitch Holdings, Margarita Holdings and Charles Green, who has an agreement with the Easdales over the sale of his shares. The lock-in period for these shareholdings ends in December, when the AGM is going to be held. It is unclear what the terms of their agreements are with the Easdales.
King will continue to closely monitor events, and would act swiftly if there was a possibility of re-visiting his consensus plans even at the last minute before the AGM. He believes talks with Easdale and Murray were constructive, and he praised both individuals, however not all shareholders were willing to compromise. King's current stance is that he is not prepared to buy shares in the market when his investment would be better spent going directly to the club, although this could change.
"I'm not walking away, I'm going to continue looking for opportunities between now and the AGM to get a compromise situation," King said. "I will reassess my position depending on the outcome of the AGM, particularly if I believe short-termism remains. I will be prepared to reconsider my current position, and could possibly intervene in the market.
"I don't believe the shareholder base will be so conflicted after the AGM, since there will be a shake up regardless of the outcome. In a year's time, it will be possible for a block of shares to be held by right-minded people, but we will have to get through a lot to get to that stage. I have never gone into a board meeting in my life to vote on issues, the board must work by consensus and discussion, but that has been a reflection of the way the business has been run recently."
Paul Murray is one of four directors who will be nominated for election to the board at the AGM by the institutional shareholders who hold around 28% of the company. A former Ibrox director, and associate of King's, Murray has long campaigned for experienced corporate governance figures to be on the board. King will not, however, take sides ahead of the AGM, and will remain the outlet for any possible last-minute compromise. The South African-based businessman believes that the current situation - James Easdale and Brian Stockbridge, the finance director, are the only two individuals sitting on the plc board, and the club has no chief executive - is unsustainable even in the short-term.
"The board desperately needs governance, and I'm sure Sandy Easdale would acknowledge that they've ended up in an uncomfortable position," King said. "It's very important that the board gets professional governance involved, with financial and business plans that take into account the need for fresh investment to take into account the funding shortfall that will come if the team is to compete again in the top flight, which is what we all want. In my view, there will be a need to two rounds of additional funding between now and then.
"During the last week I engaged a number of stakeholders, both in Glasgow and London, to seek a compromise to the current imbroglio that is restricting the operational capability and the governance at the club. I have also had follow up telephone conversations since my return to South Africa.
"Unfortunately, I have been unable to reach a consensus agreement at this time despite the constructive manner in which everyone approached the discussions with me. Certain influential shareholders are unwilling to compromise at this time and it seems inevitable, unless there is a change of heart, that an acrimonious AGM lies ahead. In my view, the AGM will not be decisive irrespective of its outcome. A continued polarisation is what I was desperately trying to avoid. For the avoidance of doubt and to avoid speculation I advise that Paul Murray and Sandy Easdale both displayed a constructive and flexible attitude during my discussions with them."
King has long maintained that personal enmities and rivalries have held back the progress of the club. He has attempted to override those issues, but some shareholders are entrenched. Murray and Jim McColl, who is backing the institutional shareholders with his expertise and contacts, hope to be able to reveal the beneficial shareholders behind Blue Pitch Holdings and Margarita Holdings, having made a legal request to the club for the information. Sandy Easdale currently holds the proxy for their votes.
Despite briefings to the contrary, King would also not encounter any difficulties with being approved as a director of a publicly listed company. He has settled his dispute with the South African Revenue Service, having agreed to pay £45m in tax arrears, and fines totalling around £700,000 after he was convicted of 41 breaches of the Income Tax Act. All fraud charges were dropped by the state. King continues to be executive chairman of Micromega, his investment firm that is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which is a competent jurisdiction. Any board appointment needs to be ratified by the nominated advisor - Daniel Stewart - that managers RIFC's listing on the Alternative Investment Market, and also by the SFA.
As part of his disclosure to the nomad, King included a letter from SARS stating that they consider him a fit and proper person to hold a directorship in a plc, and supporting his bid to become a director of Rangers. This letter would also be part of any future submission to the SFA, who have their own fit and proper person criteria, which is reviewed by the professional game board. King would also argue that his time spent on the board under Craig Whyte's ownership, leading up to administration, was spent trying to hold the owner to account, for which he has a lengthy and instructive paper trail. King also stressed that he did not believe that Peter Lawwell, the Celtic chief executive who sits on the PGB, would unduly influence the decision.
"I also take the opportunity to disassociate myself from the speculative and misinformed press coverage around my fit and proper status," King said. "Let me make my position clear. The settlement of my legal disputes in South Africa was concluded on a basis that has no effect whatsoever on my ability to serve as a director of companies. I presently sit on the board of many companies, including serving as Executive Chairman of a main board stock exchange listed company in South Africa. I have confirmed with my UK attorneys that the legal position is no different in the UK. That leaves only the subjective elements that would apply to any person joining a public company board or becoming involved in a football club under the auspices of the SFA.
"I am fully alert to key questions that are likely to be put to me and I am confident that my responses will be persuasive. However, at this point I have not approached the SFA other than my discussion in 2012 to establish what the elements of the fit and proper test would be. The SFA is clearly not in a position to consider an application that I have not yet made. Such an application would only happen if I am able to reach an in principle agreement to become actively involved in the club's affairs - as is my continued stated intention. At the request of the NOMAD, I have supplied a letter from the South African Revenue Services confirming that they see no difficulty with me continuing to sit on the board of companies. Again, however, due to my inability to make immediate progress it is not necessary to engage further with the NOMAD at this time. When the time arises there may be other questions I have to respond to. I will do so on request.
"I further do not believe that the CEO of Celtic FC attempted to negatively pre-empt any application that I might make to the SFA. I have complete confidence that the SFA will judge any future application on its merits as would be done for any person."
King will now watch events in and around Ibrox with interest. As the one figure who unites the fans and has almost unanimous backing, King's temporary withdrawal is likely to fuel further protests at tonight's Scottish Cup tie against Airdrie at Ibrox. Fans are growing increasingly angry with the board, and the realisation that certain shareholders are preventing consensus will further infuriate them. King will continue to offer that alternative, though.
"I thank every person that I met for maintaining confidentiality about the details of each meeting," King said. "I thank the media for their patience when being met with a repeated 'no comment' from me. I appreciate the importance to the community of what is happening at Rangers but I believe that the best interests of the club will not be facilitated by playing it out in the media. Over the last two years we have all witnessed the destructive value when individuals, who should be putting the club first, advance personal agendas through the media in an attempt to influence the most important stakeholder in Rangers Football Club - the fans. The result is the polarisation of interests that we are experiencing and the loss of valuable time and money in preparing the club to be competitive with our Glasgow neighbours, and other teams, when we return to the top flight of Scottish football - as we surely will. Thankfully the manager continues to make progress through the leagues despite the distractions he has had to deal with."