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Rangers directors win power battle as opponents fail in board appointment bid

The Rangers board have won their power struggle after all five directors were re-elected and their four opponents failed in their bid to be appointed.

The outcome of the votes was announced in a statement to the London Stock Exchange following a stormy annual general meeting at Ibrox.

Finance director Brian Stockbridge received 65.3 per cent backing from shareholders while his four colleagues all secured more than three-quarters of the support.

The four so-called requisitioners - Paul Murray, Malcolm Murray, Alex Wilson and Scott Murdoch - all polled close to 30 per cent of the shareholder strength.

Graham Spiers calls the outcome and analyses the AGM

The board also announced a 120-day business review which would include strengthening of the club's scouting network.

Chief executive Graham Wallace, who was appointed last month, admitted the Scottish League One club's running costs were too high even for a top-flight team and that extra funding would be required to allow Rangers to compete at the top level.

After an often bitter and public power struggle between directors and the 'requisitioners', which included a case in the Court of Session, signs at Ibrox which declared "ready for stability and success" appeared somewhat ambitious.

Finance director Brian Stockbridge has been under the most pressure to step down after reporting operating losses of £14.4million and he recently agreed to pay back his £200,000 bonus for the team's Third Division title win in return for the support of the club's biggest shareholder, Laxey Partners.

The board - Stockbridge, James Easdale and recently-appointed trio Somers, Wallace and Norman Crighton - were met with boos and shouts of "out, out, out", "asset strippers" and "Stockbridge out".

As the top table was introduced, Wallace received polite applause while manager Ally McCoist, who gifted his AGM vote to his home town supporters club in East Kilbride, received a big cheer.

Somers said: "I'm on the board of two banks and have been in business for 30 years but nothing has prepared for me for that welcome."

Somers stressed they expected "honesty and integrity" in terms of corporate governance and claimed the new-look board had made "significant strides forward".

He added: "In the three weeks I have been here I have learned that engagement with fans is the key area we need to focus on. Graham Wallace has already started work on this but we know we need to do more.

"I fully understand we don't have fans' trust. It will take time to build that.

"Despite what you read in the press I have no fundamental quarrel with requisitioners. They, like us, want what is best for the club.

"Once today's democratic process is over I hope shareholders and fans will get behind this club and board. Give us the time to win your trust."

Somers received polite applause before handing over to Wallace, whose appointment came after the Murray team had secured a court victory to have a vote on their admission included on the agenda.

Wallace said: "I can understand suspicion, scepticism or even worse about anyone accepting this position. I'm here to lead this club to best of my efforts. Nothing less."

Wallace added: "The current operating structure we have is too high, too high even for top division never mind the lower leagues."

The board announced a 120-day "business review", would coincide with a bid to re-engage with fans, revamp the player scouting network and re-focus "commercial growth".

The club raised £22million from a share issue a year go but Wallace admitted they would need to raise more funds.

"It is reasonable to assume that in order to take the club back to competing at the top levels domestically and in Europe that this will be the case," he said.

"However, this funding will only be sought once we have completed a robust business planning process that will allow us to engage with shareholders and potential investors from the platform of a well thought out strategic plan."

The votes for each of the resolutions, which included the election of the board members, were held just before the meeting closed at 12.30pm. The results are expected to be announced later today.

A stormy question-and-answer session was held beforehand where Stockbridge was heckled and quizzed on the costs of the share issue, his own share options and his bonus, which he said he had paid back.

Each director, along with football club board member Sandy Easdale, gave a personal guarantee that former chief executive Charles Green and former Rangers owner Craig Whyte were not currently involved in running the club.

Somers pledged to "protect and cherish" Ibrox and stated there would no sale and lease-back of the stadium.

The board refused to divulge any more details on who is behind the Blue Pitch and Margarita shareholdings, whose votes are controlled by Sandy Easdale. Both institutions were among the original investors when Green's consortium bought the assets and business of Rangers and set up the new company when the club were consigned to liquidation in June 2012.

Wallace also declined to give details of the club's cash situation following claims the club would run out of money in April. Wallace, who admitted season ticket prices would rise in the summer, would only state they had "sufficient cash to continue to trade in the short term".

The four requisitioners, some of whom were involved in the Blue Knights consortium which failed in a bid for Rangers before the club went into liquidation, were allowed time to speak ahead of the voting.

Wilson said: "The task we have started cannot finish until this board or another acts with trust and transparency."

Outside, shareholders spoke to the media. Colin Foster, 40, from Livingston, said: "There was clearly a group that were antagonistic towards the board and they were quite vocal.

"It's difficult to say whether they were the majority but I don't think they were. I think they were a noisy and sizeable minority.

"I'd say most people were reasonably supportive of the board, particularly the new members of the board. They are clearly big hitters and I've got a lot of confidence in them.

"I think we will have the stability that we need moving forward and I just hope they get the investment needed to get the club back to the top.

"I am concerned with the sizeable, vocal group that were against the board. That needs to get sorted one way or another.

"I asked the question, if the directors would consider the appointment of a club chaplain to act as an anchor for the heart and soul of the club to build trust and bring about peace and try to bring these disparate groups together. They said they would consider it."

Rick Swan, 59, from Glasgow, said: "I think it was a pretty hostile meeting, but that was expected.

"There were some very interesting comments from the chairman and I thought the chief executive came across very well indeed. Most people would have been impressed with his performance I think.

"It will be interesting to see what happens once the votes are counted. I don't think the requisitioners will get enough votes.

"I'm not particularly positive because I think there's far too many blocked votes among the shareholders.

"So the small shareholders like myself, the fans, our views and feelings will still go unheard."

Rangers said the results to the votes were expected on Thursday afternoon.

As he awaited the outcome of the vote, Paul Murray insisted fans must be given a meaningful say in the running of the club.

"Whatever happens, we have brought all the issues to the fore, we have got transparency to what is happening to the club," he told a media conference.

"The important thing is that the issues won't go away, they are there for all to see.

"The most pleasing thing is that the fans have to be involved and I think the board could see that today and the board, however it is comprised, they have to embrace that.

"If they don't, then I really fear for the club."

Somers had earlier appealed for time to win the fans' trust and claimed they fully recognised the need to engage more fully with supporters.

As he awaited the outcome, Paul Murray insisted fans must be given a meaningful say in the running of the club.

"Whatever happens, we have brought all the issues to the fore, we have got transparency to what is happening to the club," he said.

"The important thing is that the issues won't go away, they are there for all to see.

"The most pleasing thing is that the fans have to be involved and I think the board could see that today and the board, however it is comprised, they have to embrace that.

"If they don't, then I really fear for the club."

There was one defeat for the board, who failed to secure the three-to-one majority needed to pass a special resolution to "renew the directors' authority for the disapplication of pre-emption rights".

Pre-emption rights protect shareholders from the dilution of their stakes and passing the motion would have given the board the ability to sell shares to selected investors for as little as a penny a time. The club stated that they may renew attempts to secure this privilege in future after 32.1 per cent of votes went against them.

A similar number opposed another resolution to renew the "directors' authority to allot securities", but Rangers only needed a simple majority. That allows directors to receive possible share options.

It was confirmed at the AGM that Stockbridge is contractually entitled to a potential £500,000 share option, which he has not taken up so far.

Meanwhile, Wallace insisted the club had enough money in the bank to cope with short-term demands but added: "The current operating structure we have is too high, too high even for the top division never mind the lower leagues."

The Scottish League One club raised £22million from a share issue a year go but Wallace admitted they would need to raise more funds.

"It is reasonable to assume that in order to take the club back to competing at the top levels domestically and in Europe that this will be the case," he said.

"However, this funding will only be sought once we have completed a robust business planning process that will allow us to engage with shareholders and potential investors from the platform of a well thought-out strategic plan."

The club announced the 120-day business review would include an overhaul of the club's scouting network.

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