Mike Ashley has sold his shares in Sevco today.
They have been bought by the mugs … sorry, by the fans … of Club 1872 and by a private equity firm in Hong Kong, who each paid £1 million for them. It’s a tidy wee profit for Ashley; he doubled his money on those, which is more than any current Sevco fan will do when the next time to sell comes around.
With Ashley’s departure, King is at his preening best.
He has represented this as total victory; as I said in two earlier articles, we won’t know how bad the defeat he’s actually suffered is until the wheels come off.
Ashley’s Sevco shareholding was only retained in the wake of King’s takeover as a means of safeguarding his merchandising deal. With that now secure far into the future via the latest “restructuring” there’s no further need for this guy or his organisation to hold onto them.
The whole purpose of having them has been negated.
Now, a confession; I’m glad Mike Ashley has left the scene.
Myself and the other Celtic bloggers did our level best to discredit this guy in the eyes of the Sevco fans, and there was a good reason why we did that.
I can be open about that now he’s left.
It’s because this could all have been very different.
Mike Ashley purchased shares at Ibrox initially because he was interested in football, and he knew people who were involved there. He kept the club funded and afloat. His Newcastle bench-warmers were available to the manager on loan. There was a sense that he had a genuine interest in the club, and when he took his shareholding to 9% that was taken by many as a sign that he wanted to get more involved in the running of things there.
That is almost certainly true.
He put people on the board. His point men were in place.
Their goal was nothing less than the drastic restructuring of the whole club, to turn it into a thoroughly professional operation, and had it gone according to plan, I believe Ashley would have found a way to get his hands on a controlling interest in a way that would not have raised the hackles of UEFA or set off alarm at the Takeover Panel.
Ashley, in charge of Sevco, with the objective of modernising the club and making it into a professional organisation would have been a truly frightening thought, one that could have posed a genuine threat to our hegemony in the long term.
And so we exaggerated everything he did. I wrote articles saying that his only interest in Sevco was in turning the place into a giant billboard for Sports Direct, but the truth is he could have had all that for a fraction of the cost of keeping the club going, simply by buying the ad space around the stadium.
He didn’t need 9% of the club for that.
I think Ashley had a genuine interest in running them and whilst I don’t imagine he’d have sunk hundreds of millions into the club any more than he did at St James’ Park, I think they’d have been better run and more dangerous. They would never have brought in a guy like Warburton, would never have picked Caixinha, their signings would have been of higher quality and the infrastructure of the club would have undergone a major change.
Ashley and his people had the cash to rebuild the entire thing, and for a while the will was there to do it too.
There was a plan. It was being followed.
And then Dave King came along. He called for boycotts. He drove down the share price. He called Ashley all the horrible names under the sun, and I admit it … we helped him do it. Because there was a mutual interest in seeing Ashley demonised. There was a mutual interest in seeing him pushed aside. So as King was destabilising the club for his own reasons, we helped to poison the water for ours. It worked beyond our wildest dreams.
From the day and hour King walked into Ibrox he and Ashley were at open war, and we kept it stoked. We kept it bubbling away nicely. When King published some of the details of the retail deal we ummed and awwed and said “how dreadful!” But as I wrote just the other day, their “we get 7p for every £1” claim, from which we made such hay and got such pleasure, was, actually, nothing terribly out of the ordinary; it is, in fact, the industry average from shirt sales.
King knew that. But the number sounded good, and it suited his purposes.
A lot of the Celtic bloggers knew that.
And it certainly suited ours.
Mike Ashley is not a nice guy. Let me make that plain.
He didn’t suddenly become a saint, and his clear goals were all financially oriented.
He got a deal that suited him and suited his company, and latterly his entire focus has been on protecting that. But he didn’t intend to fleece the fans, fill his pockets and walk away. He had a genuine commitment to the concept of restructuring the whole club, and in a way that might have made them a credible threat.
Think of Sevco, run like Celtic is. He and his people could have made that happen. He could have rebuilt the infrastructure, tied it all together, and sold the whole lot on a profit that would have made the endeavour worth his while. He had the contacts and the savvy and the reputation to get that done, and that’s why he was interested in the first place. In order to do it, the club would have had to be successful … but he had the funds to make it so.
But he had no intention of working alongside King.
Sevco fans were made to see him as the enemy, as a guy intent on drowning them.
But it never stood up to scrutiny; it was in Ashley’s interests that Sevco not only continue to exist, but that it actually thrive … as so many of their fans said at the time. And to think we called them deluded fools for it, knowing they had it spot on.
I take great pleasure in having played a part in helping to drive a genuine billionaire from Ibrox, and I take even greater pleasure in the fact that King now sits at the top table, driving on with all his bluster, lying to suspend disbelief, leading the Peepul to whatever nightmare is just around the corner, an absentee chairman who has contributed almost nothing to the running of the club whilst those around the boardroom table with him are constantly dipping into their own pockets. A man who only shows up when he can look good for the cameras.
You’d never have caught Ashley preening like that. It’s not his style. He works behind the scenes, and he has built a formidable reputation as one of the most astute businessmen on the island. He’s ruthless and without scruples, but it’s got him a mansion and a private jet and the resources to do whatever he likes, wherever he likes.
Those resources and his skillset are lost to Sevco, forever and that will be all the more readily apparent if the Chinese investors who want to buy Newcastle hand him a further fortune to leave there. Think he’s done with football? Think again. He’ll be back.
But it won’t be at Ibrox.
And to think their fans are celebrating this like it’s Christmas.
They’ve been royally grafted here, in more ways than one.
And the using is just getting started.
You want to know what I consider the punchline to be?
£1 million of their money has gone to the Sports Direct magnate to “get rid of him.”
Not only did they chase off a guy who could have turned the club around … they paid him to go.
That’s beyond my wildest hopes when I first wrote of what a scoundrel he was.
I mean really, how sodding stupid can you get?
You can fool all of the Peepul all of the time after all.