Sevco In A Dark Place As Ashley Makes It Personal

Mike AshleyThere’s a 1990 movie I want to talk about a little bit. It has a bearing on the point of the piece.

The film’s called Pacific Heights. It’s not Oscar worthy, but it’s Friday night popcorn and beer entertainment, with a different kind of horror story.

At the heart of it, the movie is about money. Financial hardship caused by buying a house.

The plot is simple enough, some would say a little thin; a cute couple, played by Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffiths, buy a house they can’t afford on their own. The only way to make it work is by renting out two ground floor apartments.

So they set about trying to find people suitable to fill them, eventually settling on a nice Japanese couple for the first, and coming awfully close to letting the second out to an earnest black man who thinks the colour of his skin might count against him.

He submits the application, which gets lost as the Japanese family moves in, trampling through the halls and making a mess. When said application doesn’t turn up the couple assumes he’s changed his mind, and it’s at that moment Carter turns up, driving a Porsche.

Carter (played superbly by Michael Keaton) wants the apartment. He’s well heeled, and flashes a wedge. He leaves personal references and vanishes without signing a lease or paying a penny. Shortly thereafter, he returns in the morning and basically moves in, telling Griffiths he’s squared it with Modine.

He hasn’t. But he makes big bold claims about his trust fund and flashes more money.

He promises to have the first few months’ rent squared away in a week.

Then he vanishes again, in his shiny black ride. Days go by. Then a week has past.

No rent.

Modine goes down to the apartment to check it out and finds an odd looking dude living there … not Carter, who is “away on business.”

Modine does, at that point, what anyone would do and loses it, especially when he finds out they’ve changed the locks and like drilling at 3:00 am.

The scam is pretty simple.

According to California state law, once Carter is inside the apartment he has all the rights of a fully paid up tenant and over the course of the movie he slowly strangles the life out of Modine and Griffiths, trying to ruin them financially.

Before long, he’s well on top. He has succeeded in forcing the Japanese couple to leave (late night drilling is one thing; but he breeds cockroaches too and lets them loose into the next door unit) and even in getting a restraining order against his landlord.

His objective is to prise the house away from them, and it’s not the first time he’s done it to someone.

In fact, it’s his day job.

“For him it’s business as usual,” Modine morosely tells Griffiths one drunk night, after he’s heard Carter outline the plan to his mate. “This is what he does for a living.”

Indeed it is. Carter is a scam artist par excellence, and I’ve thought about him, and I’ve thought about that film, a lot from the hour Craig Whyte took over Rangers. The parallels are pretty obvious, and will become even clearer as the looming court case goes on.

Leeching the life out of companies and individuals is precisely what some people do for a living, and they make good money crushing the dreams of others. For all that, I don’t think these guys get any pleasure or satisfaction out of that side of it.

This is just about the bottom line. Cold hard cash.

Mike Ashley isn’t a scam artist. He’s made his money legitimately, which is why he must find Dave King’s constant moralising tiresome and even offensive. Because King is more Carter than he is; the series of offences for which the South African government went after him, and to which he pled guilty, are right out of the Wolf of Wall Street.

He artificially inflated the price of one of his companies and then cashed out, leaving the shareholders with nothing. He then salted that cash away out of reach – or so he thought – of the tax man.

For all his bombast though, Dave King is essentially small fry.

The media here might go goo-goo over his swanky South African pad, but then they were having the same conniptions over Craig Whyte and his castle when this whole saga began, and now take great delight in telling us that, in fact, he didn’t have a pot to piss in then or now.

King is probably wealthier than Whyte.

I use that word carefully, because there are things I know about Whyte and things I can guess which I’m not legally permitted to write here. Somewhere else, some other time, for sure … but not here, and not now.

King certainly has money, but he doesn’t have enough of to do half what he claimed he would at Ibrox.

The gap between rhetoric and reality has only just started to become clear to Sevco fans.

I’ve always found it terribly ironic that what these fans have longed for most is a genuine billionaire with a genuine interest in football at their club, and when they got exactly that it was in a form they didn’t expect and didn’t particularly like.

Because Ashley is everything King is not.

He’s respected as a businessman, phenomenally successful, a gambler who plays big odds with real-life off the radar wealth and if he went to the stock market to float a company he would bring with him a ton of credibility and wouldn’t have to fudge the figures. He would set a target and probably get every single penny from the “institutional investors.”

Furthermore, Ashley could, quite literally, fix much of what’s wrong with Sevco out of his petty cash.

Did he once want to? Oh, I very much doubt it.

He saw them for what they were; a light snack, a way to make a few million in sales, as just another company in his portfolio. He saw a huge advertising hoarding for his flagship enterprise, attained dirt cheap.

He’s a businessman. He saw a chance to turn a profit.

He was never particularly likely to catch Rangersitus or any of the other notable afflictions in this saga.

But he could have been convinced to play nice.

He could have been made to feel welcome, and for his contribution to have been appreciated.

He was the guy who kept the lights on last season, and without him there would have been little to stop Sevco from going the way of the club that died.

At the time he had a merchandising deal. Over the last couple of years, he got his hands on other items and the fans are in uproar that he was allowed to. Yet, those other items were all that was available as collateral at the time. They forget that in their anger, stirred up by a media that either lost sight of the big picture or was too dumb to see it.

In short, this guy saw money but had no bad intentions.

That didn’t suit the narrative King and others wanted to build. They needed to paint the old board as an enemy of the club itself, and Ashley was little more than a stick to beat them with.

I am sure he realised that at the start. It’s why he was originally willing to negotiate and work out some kind of compromise, if it left his people on the board, where his interests could be protected.

He probably thought King was playing to the gallery, nothing more.

But King wasn’t.

King is an arrogant, spitefil sod, a man motivated, in part, by a belief in his own bull. He blusters because he thinks he’s right and everyone else is wrong, even when he knows what he’s saying is groundless nonsense.

It’s a character flaw, a dangerous one at that, one that means this guy can never be fully trusted.

Somewhere along the line, whatever the initial motivation, King really did start to view Ashley as more than just a boardroom problem. Whether it was envy or natural spite or whatever, he started to see things in the way he sees Celtic; not as something to aspire to or overcome, but as something to hate, something standing in his way of his own self image.

And I marvelled at that on this very site.

I wondered just what in the Hell Dave King thought he was doing, in butting heads with a guy who could, if he was so minded, make the next 12 months of Sevco’s life utterly impossible before he pulled the plug.

I wrote an article called Making Enemies, where I expressed my view that to piss this guy off too much would be the summit of madness and invite retribution. I quote Mario Puzo’s The Godfather to illustrate the point.

There’s a similar moment in Pacific Heights, where Modine and Griffiths find a lawyer willing to help them and she gives them the news outside the courtroom after they’ve lost the first skirmish. She tells Griffiths, for her own good, that they should walk away. Put the house up for sale, take the financial hit and get on with their lives.

“It’s nothing personal,” she tells Griffiths. “God forbid he ever makes it personal.”

Which brings us to today’s stories, which reveal that Ashley wants to haul King into court for breaching the confidentially agreement that exists between Sevco and Sports Direct.

I’m not surprised by it, not even a little, although the story appears somewhat older than Keith “Exclusive” Jackson would have you believe.

In fact, King has been courting this kind of disaster for months, almost as if he’s on a self-destructive course that he can’t seem to break free of. His public comments have been inviting it, egging Ashley on.

It was reckless and it was stupid, and it was always going to end in tears.

He’s made an enemy, which is what he seemed to want to do, and if I struggle to understand just what King’s endgame is at Ibrox, with no visible means of success, I find this even more mystifying, because it truly is a battle without hope of victory.

Ashley is now making it personal, because King has forced him to.

Sevco fans should be concerned with that because he’s taking it out, in part, on their club.

If it was a simple issue between Ashley and their absentee chairman their supporters could simply let the two of them get on with it, but it’s not how things are. King’s position on the board is part of it, but he’s attacking Ashley “on their behalf” without a plan.

Incredibly, most of their fans are cheering this on.

Indeed, a number of their supporter’s organisations seem just as determined to force their way onto Ashley’s radar with fake shirts and alternative merchandise. They’ve tried their lousy, pathetic, One Pound Protest and they’ve said they won’t buy official club products, although there seem to be a lot of replica strips in the stands.

Ashley’s people seem happy with the current deals.

They’re making money in spite of the “official boycott.”

That’s why they’ll be nearly impossible to shift.

There’s one bonkers suggestion doing the rounds at the moment about what fans are calling Stink Bomb Saturday, targeting Sports Direct shops.

Idiocy, proposed by idiots.

All this is the height of folly, whether the behaviour of the fans or King himself.

Poking a dangerous animal with a stick like this can only end in disaster.

How can they be this stupid, with their club already hanging by a thread?

King has invested precisely nothing; they’re floating on soft loans and nothing else, and those are being provided by other existing directors. All he seems to have brought to the table is a big mouth a world of trouble, and the situation is now threatening to get out of control.

Sevco doesn’t have the resources for a minor skirmish with Ashley, let alone a full-on war.

They’ve antagonised a man who holds their future in the palm of his hand. He knows they’ve not got the money to pay back the £5 million loan, and he can make it so they never do. If he decides to, he can launch a legal battle every single day, sucking them dry in the process.

They will be swallowed whole, and what goes in one end will come out the other in a form most definitely not to their liking.

If I were in their shoes this is the last guy’s leg I’d be pissing up.

They seem determined to try.

And for that, they’ve got all the trouble in the world coming their way.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

11 thoughts on “Sevco In A Dark Place As Ashley Makes It Personal

  • 3 November, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    I can’t help thinking they’re more like day trippers in Jaws. Who have been led to believe it’s safe to go in the water by people with a vested interest in keeping the beach open for business. The peepil spleshing about are pouring chum all over themselves, ignoring all the people on the beach shouting “Shark.” But because the peepil can’t see Jaws for all the flegs and newspapers obscuring their wee eyes they go on spleshing about comforted by the fact they’re protected by true ranjurz men in off brand sevco speedo’s trying to drain the ocean one plastic bucket full at a time.

  • 3 November, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    Is King on some sort of ego trip?

    Did he have a plan A, then plan B if required?

    It’s quickly turning into a shambles with events completely out of the control of King and his board.

    Hard to believe that King still has a large section of the support on his side, certainly those with the loudest voices and propensity to cause some mayhem.

    When you have been fed months, no years, of PR driven bullsh*t in the media, feeding your sense of entitlement and supporting the victim myth it’s no surprise that the unfolding events are hard to take in.

    A positive result in the BTC tomorrow will be followed by the usual claims that our club did no wrong, not guilty of anything, victims of a Tim conspiracy.

    Again we can thank the media for these misconceptions as they have spent the last 3 years misleading the gullible because to go off message was not an option.

    We all have our own theories as to why.

  • 3 November, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Yup. There’s NOTHING as dumb as a hun!

    Mind you it’s great entertainment watching them self destruct.

  • 3 November, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    My opinion for what it’s worth is that king is deliberately agitating for Ashley to make a move so he can blame Ashley for the collapse of 2nd rangers and not have to B the one responsible for their demise

  • 3 November, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Fine narrative, pretty much nails the relative strengths of the position of Ashley as against the chasm of nothingness behind and beneath Sevco. That said, the manner in which you and others regard and discuss King in such a superficial and dismissive way doesn’t really do justice to the insidious malevolence that he has brought to the sorry saga. It’s not much different really to the fawning obsequious shallowness of White and his ilk. What is he looking for out of his involvement, a return on his previous investment? Who does he have in his corner, if anyone? He seems to have alienated the RRM in the boardroom every bit as much as Ashley, and in terms of weight the support of the fans counts for precious little. I don’t believe myself that there is much substance to him, and that circumstances have helped him stay in place rather than anything positive he has done himself. When the story of this chapter of the sad tale is written, I don’t think the paragraph on King will be either prolonged or interesting. But it would be nice to see it finish with the unmasking of the charlatan, rather than him just slipping out of the story.

  • 4 November, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Although I’m a Celtic man through and through….
    I don’t think it’s right that we should attack King in this manner.I genuinely believe he will come good and provide Sevco with all they are looking for.
    If indeed I was a Sevco supporter I would be backing King to the hilt against Ashley and trying to expose Ashley for what he is…A danger to the Club.
    I would even go as far as to say…Play Ashley at his own game and take him to court every day…refuse point blank to pay back the loan… and disrupt his daily business..Oh..and call him names as well.
    You know this would make sense.
    Hail hail

  • 4 November, 2015 at 11:29 am

    The victim cry will be heard loud and clear today with the media filling the minds of the gullible that it was the BTC that did for them but they have been found not guilty.
    Of course it does not suit their agenda to mention the £21 million unpaid PAYE/VAT that actually let to their demise.
    Add to that the unpaid WTC bill and the various EBT ‘ s which were either found to be legal or sent back for a further ruling.
    I think that the media, now that the Level 5 forcefield is no longer in place is about to slam on the brakes and do a u turn in it’s reporting of the Ibrox club.

    Their is a realisation slowly creeping in that King is a busted flush………..and is actually an impediment to the club’s survival, so somehow he has to go.

    Despite their unanimous support for the King in waiting leading up to the EGM and falling over themselves to outdo one another in praising the new saviour, the process of wiping those headlines from the memory of their readers has begun.

    Of course to enable to reverse from their previously held positions they need to find someone to blame for the clusterf*ck that King has led them into…….step forward the SFA and their F&P status!

    Yep, it’s them that did it, how could they possibly allow a man with his criminal record to take control. They will point to the treatment given to Cellino at Leeds and say go compare…….blah, blah, blah.

    This is the very same media where pre EGM you would never have seen King and criminal in the same sentence.
    The media were instrumental in selling King to the fans….what’s not to like, RRM, multi millionaire, boy made good.
    They laid it on thick and it worked a treat because the fans needed to hear what they were being told.

    Now as the carnage begins the SFA will be held responsible…….after the fact.

    Can you imagine the uproar in the media and from the fans if King hadn’t been given F&P status?

    Of course the football authorities got it wrong but here in Scotland we are used to poor leadership and decision making.

    This is not the first and neither will it be the last.

    Now stand by for another saviour to appear from nowhere and watch the whole circus act kick off again.

  • 4 November, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Ah the Daily Radar and their ???? tax bill, where would we be without them.

    You can just picture the reams of copy being confined to the waste bin as the HMRC news came in.

    It’s fairly stacking up now.

    Another year of substantial losses.
    Decision to be made on SPFL £250k unpaid fine.
    Unpaid bill of £400k re last visit to court on SD business.
    Green’s legal cost case next week.
    King in court in December re breaking gagging order…..if he turns up!

    The statement accompanying the accounts made reference to a £2.5m shortfall between now and the end of the season which would be met by existing shareholders/co investors ( although it appears that not all of the Co investors are on mesaage)

    The initial shortfall element would be required in December 2015………………I may be missing something but the monthly operating costs, including payroll, are north of £2m per month. How does that stack up?
    ST monies have gone, so all that’s left is walk up customers for the home games…….I’m amazed that they are so flush that Warburton has been allowed to cancel the home game against Dumbarton on international weekend and move it to a Tuesday in December

  • 5 November, 2015 at 11:09 am

    The players with side letters had them for a reason.

    That reason being that if the dodgy scheme went t*ts up then the club would pay the tax due.

    As all/most of the Murray companies are being liquidated I would be amazed if HMRC don’t go after the individual recipients.

    After all they, by virtue of the side letters, knew that a day of reckoning might come and now it has.

    Apart from sporting advantage to the club who benefitted from the tax free payments…………the players!

    One more Neil Patey interview and I will have no hair left.

    His opinion was that given the geographical spread of the recipient’s HMRC would be wasting their time if they went after the individuals!!

    What a load of no sense.

    David Murray, Barry Ferguson, Alex Rae, Billy Dodds, Neil McCann, Nacho Nov o, Graham Soun ess, Campbell Ogilve, Andrew Dickso n , Alex McLeish ………….all on HMRC ‘ S doorstep plus dozens of others.

    Listening to Alex Rae last night pushing the company line that at the end of the day it was just 11 men against another 11, and the best team won.

    Alex indeed it was but it so happened that the Rangers 11 might have lined up significantly different if most of them had not been recipients of EBT payments……….I don’t think any of these guys are so stupid that they miss the point, they just don’t want to acknowledge it.

  • 5 November, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    So New co hasn’t paid the £250k fine imposed as a result of the LNS enquiry!

    Why are we only hearing about this now?

    Was this football debt not part of the 5 way agreement?

    Will we hear anything today from the SFA president, Doncaster, Regan now that we have confirmation that a member club cheated for over a decade via a form of financial doping?

    Wasn’t it doping that got Lance Armstrong into some difficulties…..most notably his sponsors?

    Turns out that the wee admin error where Rangers neglected to inform the SFA of all payments being made to players is only the tip of the iceberg.

    For sure we now know the EBT payments were illegal.
    Financial doping was the result
    Sporting advantage was gained
    The club/company playing out of Ibrox is still spending more than it earns

    What response can we expect from the SFA?

    Will their be a response?

    What will the sponsors reaction be?

    Add unpaid fines to the above and it paints a picture of Scottish football being run for the benefit of one club.

    Murray, Whyte, Green, King have all played their part in bringing the club to it’s knees.

    With the trials imminent anyone who thinks that the worst is over and that all the bad news is out there, is kidding themselves on.

  • 24 November, 2015 at 12:00 am

    when the book is printed it will outsell ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN AND GONE WITH THE WIND

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