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Rangers board still in control after AGM

By Ronnie Esplin

Under-fire financial director Brian Stockbridge bore the brunt as angry Rangers fans grilled the club's board during a fiery annual general meeting.

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, but the man who presided over a £14.4m loss in the 13 months up to June was booed every time he spoke as he faced a string of accusing questions about his performance.

Disgruntled shareholders also demanded answers on whether discredited former owner Craig Whyte and controversial ex-chief executive Charles Green were still involved behind the scenes.

One fan even asked chairman David Somers to consider appointing a church minister to keep the peace in the boardroom.

But it was Stockbridge who was targeted time and again by the seething support.

However, even in the face of such a furious backlash, the support of institutional backers meant he clung on to his job alongside the rest of the current board.

The 39-year-old defended the cost of setting up the IPO share issue, which raised £22m for the club 12 months ago.

Stockbridge – who received 65.3 per cent backing – said: "The costs of the fundraising were over £6.5m. Half of this relates to the pre-IPO acquisition of the club and half relates to the IPO itself. Both were expensive but we need to recognise because the club was in a very unfortunate position.

"I wasn't brought in to win a popularity contest. Hard financial decisions had to be made. One of those was to pay the fees necessary to secure the club."

Stockbridge, who had to repay a £200,000 bonus to retain the support of major shareholder Laxey Partners, was quizzed about a clause in his contract entitling him to share options worth £500,000 – two and a half times his salary.

"Yes I'm entitled to shares as set out in the prospectus, but because of everything that has happened in the club, I have not taken them so far," he said.

Some of the angriest outbursts came as the board was asked to defend the use of PR contractor Jack Irvine after a leaked email in which he allegedly insulted former Rangers captain and manager John Greig.

Somers revealed Irvine had since sent a "full apology" to the man voted the greatest ever Ranger but that failed to stop a string of expletive-filled tirades being directed at the top table.

Each member of the board took it in turn to promise neither Whyte nor Green had any influence over the club, with chief executive Graham Wallace adding: "There is no one lurking in the corner pulling strings."

Belfast Telegraph


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