King of Ibrox: Stringing along the Court

Douglas Fraser
Business/economy editor, Scotland

  • It's taken a long time for the Court of Session to force the Rangers chairman Dave King to comply with company law.
  • He's strung along the Takeover Panel and the Court. But he may soon face an unpleasant combination of a cold shoulder, hot water and porridge.
Image source, Getty Images

Dave King has previous on stringing along the authorities. In legal action taken by South Africa's tax authorities, he kept them waiting for years before paying up what he owed. The stigma of a criminal record doesn't seem to bother him much.

Facing action by the Takeover Panel, the Ibrox chairman seems to be playing a similar game.

The watchdog of mergers and takeovers has limited powers. The main one is usually very effective, in that it "cold shoulders" someone who refuses to comply, denying them any access to regulated financial companies, such as banks or accountants.

It hasn't used that on Dave King, yet, probably because he doesn't have much need of banks or accountants in the UK. He lives in South Africa, from where it's easier to cock a snook at the financial authorities in London.

He did so this week with his start-of-season message to fans. Published on the Rangers website, this was intended to fuel a sense of Ibrox grievance that Rangers' financial difficulties are down to vexatious complaints from other clubs and former directors.

It's almost as if the Companies Act 2006 was not crystal clear on him being in the wrong, or that the Takeover Panel was unable to make up its own mind without pressure from the terracing at Parkhead.

Not for the first time, a Rangers chairman in difficulties has appealed to the faithful to back him against the perceived injustices of the outside world. And not for the first time, many of the Rangers faithful have failed to distinguish between the interests of their club and those of its chairman.

'No end in sight'

King twice described the Court of Session rulings as "strange", and said the Takeover Panel's refusal to give him more time to get his finances together, to open a UK bank account and to make the offer was causing "further unnecessary delay, with no end in sight".

Those final four words appear to be what focussed our learned friends' minds with Friday's hearing in the Court of Session. King is either deluding himself about who's causing delay, or he's stringing along the Court. But for how long?

Being found in contempt of court, as early as next month, could bring a jail sentence of up to two years or an unlimited fine. Both the Court and the Takeover Panel have a common interest in seeing their authority respected, and that of the law.

So does he want to be a fugitive, unable to touch down in the UK and visit Ibrox without having his collar felt?

If he is held in contempt, will there then be a case for the Scottish Football Association to challenge his status as a "fit and proper" person to be a director of a Scottish premiership club?

That sporting sanction, rather than cold shouldering or a fine, may be what the Takeover Panel is relying upon as the leverage to get Mr King to comply.

He'll have to make up his mind before 16 August, when the case is reconvened? Yes, yet again, the Scottish courts are taking a long time to handle this. I'm told it could have been taken to an English court, and would probably have been concluded a long time ago.

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