Scot Gardiner’s departure from Dundee marks the end of over two eventful and, at times, stormy years as chief executive.
Gardiner, who’d formerly worked for Rangers and Spurs, joined up in 2012 with the Dark Blues still battling for survival in the wake of a second period in administration in less than a decade.
He was appointed by the board to provide experience and a hands on approach to the day-to-day running of a club that was now owned by the fans. For a time, things ran smoothly. Having staved off relegation in 2011, despite a 25- point penalty for going into administration, Dundee finished a creditable second to Ross County in the 2011-12 campaign.
That achievement by manager Barry Smith was to prove vital. When Rangers dropped out of the SPL because of their financial crisis, the Dens men were invited to step up to the top flight.
While that provided an opportunity to re-establish the team at the highest level, with only a few weeks between the news and the start of the season it was an impossible task. By then it was also clear Gardiner’s relationship with a section of the support, some of whom backed the club financially, was strained.
That situation did not improve early last year when, with the team adrift at the bottom of the league, the decision was taken to sack Barry Smith. Tasked with finding a replacement, Gardiner came up with John Brown.
Although a popular player for Dundee during the mid-1980s, “Bomber’s” name was synonymous with Rangers and the struggle by fans there to grab a larger say in the running of their club. That and the fact no other candidates seemed to have been interviewed, caused uproar among fans.
He rode that storm out but there’s no question the chief executive’s reputation had taken another battering. Matters were not helped when a fall-out between the new boss and long-serving Rab Douglas led to the keeper quitting a club where he enjoyed legendary status.
Behind the scenes, Gardiner was involved in more controversy as benefactor Bill Colvin and fellow-directors Steve Martin and Ian Crighton made it clear they felt the way forward was to accept an offer of partnership from American millionaire Tim Keyes that would see control taken away from the supporters.
Ironically, it was what the rank-and-file fans wanted and, although last summer their representatives on the board bowed to those wishes, they felt they’d appointed a chief executive who had sided with the new owners instead of remaining neutral.
If he did, Gardiner and many others would argue he was acting in Dundee’s best interests and promotion back to the Premiership last season would seem to bear that out.
What’s undeniable is that it was another stormy episode during his time as chief executive and left him with more enemies.
That he should depart Dens at a time when, on the surface at least, things seem to be on the up and running more smoothly than for a number of years is also ironic.
The appointment of Brown as manager ultimately did not work out.
But Gardiner did play a big role in bringing Hartley in. With him in charge of the team, a top-flight return has been secured and a string of impressive signings has been made. And, while opinions in Dundee are mixed, his time there might be remembered more fondly elsewhere.
He was a major driving force behind the moves that led to the merger of the SPL and SFL and, when some lower division clubs attempted to sabotage that marriage at the eleventh hour, his swift reaction helped save the day and secure a one-body league set-up.
Even then, he came in for criticism from some Dark Blues that he was spending too much time looking at the bigger picture and not concentrating enough on Dundee Football Club.