Journalists should always ask this question when trying to decipher what is going on with a complex story.
Yesterday at the inaugural AGM of Rangers International Football Club Financial their Director Brian Stockbridge was the main target for the ire from the assembled throng.
The shareholders had reasonable cause to be angry with him.
At a meeting with fans earlier this year he said that he didn’t know how much of the IPO (share issue) money was left.
He didn’t know.
The financial Director didn’t know.
For the IPO itself Stockbridge, as Financial Director, would have had a major role in drawing up the prospectus.
The projected figures were wildly out.
First there was a predicted loss in year one of the new clumpany of just over one million pounds.
Then in the half yearly figures that had to be changed to seven million.
The audited accounts, signed off by Deloittes recorded a loss of £14 million.
This morning I ran these basic facts past three chaps who know a lot about this business stuff.
I took this course of action as I don’t have the answers to the questions that I thought you might want answered dear reader.
Note to Scottish mainstream media:
This stuff isn’t really that difficult just go and ask people who know more than you about any given subject then check out their answers with another suitably qualified person.
Queuing for a press release and then obediently regurgitating the contents shouldn’t be the core function of your job.
So anyway my three wise men were two Chartered Accountants and a Corporate Lawyer and they were happy to answer my questions.
Each of them focussed in on how much out Stockbridge was with his predictions. It was self-evident to all of them that the cash flow was clearly out of control.
They were unanimity that this was definitely his failure and couldn’t be laid at the door of anyone else.
Moreover, they were all in agreement that in any company they had ever worked in or dealt with that a Financial Director turning in that type of performance would be sacked immediately.
When I told my wise trio that Mr Stockbridge had not only kept his job but had secured 65% of the vote at the AGM then they were all at a loss to explain this.
One of them said to me:
“In a company with a turnover of, say, twenty to thirty million pounds, to be off by two hundred grand would require some explaining to the CEO and the board, but to be off by twelve mill in operating cash flow? And he kept his job? I’ve never heard of anything like this.”
The chap within my trio who was a native of Newcastle was more industrial in his analysis:
“Someone fucking up that badly would be fired by the shareholders.”
For the record these highly qualified chaps didn’t know Mr Stockbridge and had never crossed his path.
Like me they were making an assessment of his performance as Financial Director of a publicly listed company on the basis of information that is freely available and not contested apropos its veracity.
I am sure that Mr Stockbridge is a fine fellow, but like my wise trio I am amazed that he is still in his position at RIFC.
Moreover they all agreed that the question for every journalist in Scotland working on this story should be:
“Why are 65% of the shareholders of the company happy with Mr Stockbridge after his performance as Financial Director?”
The instincts of the fans on this whether they are shareholders or not are, pun intended, bang on the money about Mr Stockbridge.
It is inconceivable that any well-run company would keep a Financial Director after such disasterous numbers in the audited accounts.
Moreover after his calamitous first year in this vital role anything he said about money has to have a health warning over it.
One of my guys said:
“Unless it is on a document signed by an auditor I wouldn’t take it at face value. Not after his performance so far.”
Another of them came back to Stockbridge’s failure to get his sums correct at the mid-season.
“The revenue streams of football clubs are predictable. In the middle of the season they already have all their income in and most of their costs are contracted, player’s wages etc. The fluctuations through the season are minor.”
The politically astute thing yesterday would have been to give the ‘rebels’ and the fans a minor victory.
They could have de-selected Mr Stockbridge, certainly something that his calamitous performance warranted.
Even during the AGM the new CEO criticised the financial profile of the company.
My three fellas certainly saw this as the CEO publicly lambasting the Financial Director in everything but name.
Yet he remains in post directing the finances of Rangers International Football Club.
I can only conclude that that fact that Mr Brian Stockbridge is very valuable to the enterprise.
They certainly can’t want him there for his brilliant performance as a Financial Director, because he clearly isn’t very good at his job.
Who benefits from Stockbridge remaining in his job?
I look forward to those intrepid fearless chaps in the Scottish mainstream media finding out the real reason that Stockbridge wasn’t’ fired yesterday and why 65% of the shareholders in the company want him to remain as Financial Director.
This is THE question if anyone in Scottish sports journalism wants to break this Sevco story wide open.
Here’s a clue guys:
You won’t get the answer by quietly queuing for a Press Release about how wonderful it is all going to be at Ibrox.
I’m in another country; I have a book to write and a publisher to support.
If you do your job then I won’t have to do this stuff and point out that you’re not doing yours.