Sports Direct's Ashley pushes for shake-up at Rangers

LONDON (Reuters) - Mike Ashley, the owner of English Premier League football club Newcastle United, has called for the removal of the chief executive and a director at Rangers after increasing his stake in the Scottish club.

News that the founder of retail group Sports Direct had doubled his stake in the 54-times Scottish football champions to almost 9 percent through his MASH Holdings company, which also owns Newcastle United, emerged last week.

Rangers said on Wednesday that Ashley now wants the club to call a shareholder meeting to forward resolutions to remove Graham Wallace, CEO since last November, and financial consultant Philip Nash as directors of the company.

The Glasgow club has climbed back within one division of the top flight of the Scottish game after its 2012 collapse under a mountain of debt forced it to relaunch from the fourth tier. However, its progress on the field has been marred by boardroom infighting and further financial losses.

Rangers said it will seek to have Ashley's meeting notice withdrawn on procedural grounds to avoid costs and disruption ahead of the club's annual general meeting.

"The board is united in its support of the executive team. If the notice is valid and is not withdrawn, the directors intend to recommend that shareholders vote against the proposed resolutions," Rangers said in a statement.

Ashley's push for a shake-up is the latest in a line of surprise moves by the ambitious billionaire, whose near 58 percent stake in Sports Direct is worth more than 2.1 billion pounds.

Last month he entered into a put option agreement on a small stake in Britain's biggest grocer Tesco and followed that by moving to increase his stake in Debenhams.

Shares in Sports Direct, which has a retail partnership deal with Rangers, were down 1.1 percent in early trade.

(Reporting by Neil Maidment; Editing by David Goodman)

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