MOTORING group executive Douglas Park has been placed in interim charge of the Rangers board as Dave King officially stepped down as chairman.

The move came as the club said investment plans have been put on hold in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Johannesburg-based entrepreneur announced at the club’s AGM in November he would be giving up the role to focus on his business interests back in South Africa.

And on Friday he confirmed he has stepped down while confirming that all of his businesses in South Africa had been "signficantly impacted" by the coronavirus pandemic.

He has now left it to motor group tycoon to steer Rangers through the coronavirus crisis after announcing a task team had been set up at Ibrox to deal with the fallout of the pandemic.

Douglas Park, head of Park’s Motor Group, who has a 14% stake in Rangers and has been a principal source of soft loans that has supported the club, had been favourite to take over.

The announcement marks the end of Mr King's five-year reign, which began when he and the Three Bears group of investors made up of Hong Kong-based investment banker George Taylor, Park's Motor Group founder Douglas Park and investment banker fan George Letham bought up shares and went on to take over the club from a group said to be allied to Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley in 2015.

When in November, at the Rangers’ AGM, the club’s biggest shareholder revealed he was intending to step down, he said there was “no longer” a need to continue with what he described as an “ad hoc funding approach”.

At that point the Rangers International Football Club plc was predicted to require £10 million by way of “debt or equity funding” by the end of the season while announcing an annual loss of £11.3m.

 In a lengthy statement the  Castlemilk-born businessman said that the coronavirus crisis had thrown the football and business world into chaos and that investment plans had been 'put on hold'.

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The 64-year-old said the club has formed a special "task team" to look after the health and wellbeing of club employees during the virus crisis and to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic on the club.

Mr King said he had considered staying on as Ibrox chairman during the pandemic but revealed he was now self-isolating at his home in South Africa and would need to focus all of his energy on his business interests there during the global crisis.

Mr Park will now take up the reigns as interim chairman until a permanent appointment is made.

Mr King said: “I thank all supporters, club management and the board for the magnificent support I received while guiding the club post regime change to put that specific crisis behind the club.

“It is a great pity that we now find ourselves part of this global crisis. The task team will continue to navigate the club through this difficult time while reporting to the full board.

“The deputy chairman Douglas Park will chair the board during the interim period and a new permanent chairman will be elected by the board at the next board meeting and will be announced immediately thereafter.”

Mr King admitted he had almost had a change of heart after the scale of virus’ threat became clear, but decided he could not continue leading the club after being forced into self-isolation on his return to South Africa following a board meeting earlier this month.

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Dave King with Douglas Park (right)

“I considered the possibility of extending my time as chairman until the coronavirus crisis is over but that is not practically possible,” he added.

“After I returned to South Africa last week from the board meeting, I was mandated by the South African authorities to go into self-isolation for 14 days – which I am presently undergoing.”

He added: "We presently have extremely limited visibility on how the landscape will develop in the coming months but we will continue to keep our supporters and other stakeholders updated as matters progress. We are all in this together.

"I thank all of my colleagues for the time and effort they continue to devote to our club - particularly when they are all dealing with their own family and business concerns arising from coronavirus. It is unfortunate that my stepping down has coincided with the coronavirus crisis but I am relieved that our club has such stalwarts in place to deal with whatever comes our way."

He explained that many local businesses  in South Africa have not paid their employees - or have reduced payments at the end of March, while others had also terminated the employment of large numbers of their workforce.

"I decided to pay all employees in full in order to reduce the financial hardship to them," he said.

He said he had put together a task team that communicates on a daily basis to find ways to make arrangements with landlords, suppliers, creditors and other stakeholders to restructure his businesses "for as long as is necessary" and in doing so, "prioritise the wellbeing of our employees and their families".

He said: "This is a full-time task that leaves me no free time to make meaningful input to the Rangers task team - which, in any event, is dealing with a more structured and more benign local environment due to the ability of the UK government to offer meaningful financial support to distressed businesses and individuals.

"In closing, I thank all supporters, club management and the board for the magnificent support I received while guiding the Club post regime change to put that specific crisis behind the club.

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"It is a great pity that we now find ourselves part of this global crisis.

"The Task Team will continue to navigate the club through this difficult time while reporting to the full board."

In the latest accounts, which include reports by Mr King and the club’s auditors, the Castlemilk-born Rangers fan’s Laird Investments company was quoted as providing loan facilities to meet a predicted shortfall in funding for this financial year “and further amounts that may be required”.

It agreed to provide a £5m facility to October 2021.

Mr King’s report also admits that “uncertainty over the level of additional funds that will be required and a lack of a binding debt facility indicate that a material uncertainty exists which may cast doubt over the group’s ability to continue as a going concern...”

Rangers’ auditors, Campbell Dallas Audit Services, echoes this, saying the risk of key cash flows not being achieved as forecast, along with the absence of a binding debt facility for any shortfalls, “indicate that a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the group’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

However, Mr King also said that his report was prepared on a “going concern” basis and that the board believed there is a “reasonable expectation” it will “at all times” have adequate resources to continue in operation for the foreseeable future.

It is understood that Mr King still retains a 25% stake in the club.

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Mr King's five years was not without its faire share of controversy, dispute and courtroom battles.

He previously asserted that the previous board “and other parties” agitated with the Takeover Panel to have him excluded from assisting in Rangers’ recovery and created “many personal complications” with exchange control authorities in South Africa that cost him more than a million pounds in wasted legal costs.

And he said that the South African exchange control authorities’ involvement in reviewing what was going on at Rangers had a “subsequent negative impact” on the club.