Dave King
Dave King (Photo: Lauren Mulligan)
  • Dave King, the man who "beat Sars", has been slapped with a rare and severe sanction by a City of London regulator.
  • The "cold-shoulder" treatment by the Takeover Panel bans King from involvement in takeovers within its jurisdiction for four years, and could make it hard for him to do business in Britain more generally.
  • He is also facing an inquiry into whether he is fit and proper to run his Scottish football club Rangers.
  • King says the need to comply with South African exchange-control rules put him on the wrong side of rules in Britain.
  • For more stories, go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.


Dave King famously "beat" the South African Revenue Service (Sars) when, in 2013, he agreed to pay more than R700 million to settle a tax debt – which Sars had originally estimated at well over R2 billion, while also accusing him of fraud.

But King this week suffered a major blow in the City of London, one which could make it difficult for him to engage in business in Britain broadly, and even threatens his control of the Scottish Rangers Football Club, which he chairs.

On Friday the powerful Panel on Takeovers and Mergers, known more simply as the Takeover Panel, ruled that King "should be cold-shouldered for a period of four years".

That will block him from working with regulated entities in the United Kingdom on business deals involving takeovers. Banks and other institutions may also avoid dealings with him entirely.

The sanction is considered severe – in keeping with the "utmost gravity" of King's actions – and has reportedly only been used three other times in the 50-year history of the panel.

In a 25-page ruling a committee of the panel said King had shown himself to be "someone who is unlikely to comply with" the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers, which governs financial firms in such business dealings. 

The finding stemmed from – originally – King's actions when he acquired Rangers in 2015. King, the panel said, had acted in concert with three others, a group know as the Three Bears, to secure 30% of the voting rights in Rangers. At that point, it held, he was obliged to make a mandatory offer to buy out other shareholders at 20 pence a share. He failed to do so, even after being ordered to, and the takeover panel eventually instituted contempt proceedings against him.

King eventually made such a buy-out offer – on 25 January 2019 – by way of South African company Laird Investments, controlled by a family trust.

The takeover panel's executive was extremely unimpressed by King's conduct during the saga, and its Hearings Committee agreed to a sufficient extent to blackball him.

King did not appeal the finding.

In a notice posted on the Rangers website, King said he had not been able to comply with the offer order because of "my need to comply with the exchange control regulations of South Africa".

The situation around the club takeover "meant that because of the requirements on me as a South African citizen I was faced with a choice of non-compliance with the Code or non-compliance with the laws of the country that I live in."

His investment in Rangers, King stressed, had been motivated entirely by his love of the club.

But his involvement in the club could now be under threat. Rangers, BBC Sport reported, is now obliged to inform the Scottish football association of the Takeover Panel ruling. That in turn will trigger a discussion on whether he still qualifies as "fit and proper" to chair Rangers.

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