Craig Whyte has his say
- 21 February 2012
- From the section Tayside and Central Scotland
The statement from Craig Whyte doesn't read like that of a man whose restructuring plan for Rangers is on track.
At the very least, the club's main creditor, who was replaced as chairman by administrators last week, sounds badly rattled by the abuse hurled at him in recent days.
That's why he's gone to some lengths to explain himself.
And he's announced that he would like to hand most of his shares to a supporters' trust, if he regains control at Ibrox, while also vacating the chairman's seat.
The cynics out there might ask why he didn't suggest the share offer some weeks ago, when it might have sounded a more convincing part of the plan.
Instead, Mr Whyte looks like he's been dragged into making that statement by the ferocity of the reaction to last week's events.
He's saying he'll give "immediate consideration" to gifting the majority of his shares to a supporters' trust. He's "very keen on the idea". But you'll note that language stops quite a long way short of a commitment to making it happen.
And if this were part of the previous grand plan (if there was one, and about which he now says he wishes he had been more transparent) then you might think it would have had his consideration quite a while ago.
Completing the deal
Meantime, what of the other elements in this extraordinary statement? The detail of the Ticketus deal was already very muddy. Mr Whyte adds only a little clarity, along with a bit more confusion. We're told this raised £20m, plus VAT (coming to £24m). And we're now told it was for working capital and "to complete the deal".
To rewind a bit, we're told that, in November 2010, Craig Whyte had proven to Sir David Murray, from whom he took on the controlling stake in May last year, and Lloyds Banking Group, from which he took on the club's £18m debt, that he had £33m available for the transaction. That would pay off the debt, while providing for his commitments on working capital, investing in the player squad and upgrading the stadium.
That was before the Ticketus deal was mooted, by professional advisers. What Craig Whyte doesn't quite spell out is whether that money was used to buy the club.
But for the fuller picture, you might want to take a look at a statement out this afternoon from the club's administrators, Duff and Phelps. They don't leave much doubt. They say around £20m plus VAT was raised from Ticketus, and: "Subsequently, £18m was transferred to the Lloyds Banking Group".
"The application of the remainder of these proceeds is subject to further examination".
To put it another way, the administrators can see a direct link between the Ticketus funds and the payment to Lloyds Banking Group to take on its debt.
Contrast that information with Mr Whyte's previous statement, made on 31 January: "I can categorically assure supporters that when I launched a takeover bid for the club, it was funded entirely from one of my companies and that was demonstrated clearly to the satisfaction of the previous owner, Lloyds Banking Group and professional advisers".
The crucial words may be "when I launched a takeover bid". By the time the payment was made, we now know that position had changed.
So back to Mr Whyte's statement: he says the Ticketus deal was to protect the club, as the company has no security over any assets. The only person at risk from the deal was Craig Whyte personally, "because I gave Ticketus personal and corporate guarantees underwriting their investment; the club and the fans are fully protected. In terms of exposure, I am personally on the line for £27.5m in guarantees and cash."
So any idea that he's been making a fast buck or indulging in illegal manoeuvring (his choice of words) is "clearly ludicrous".
If only Mr Whyte had been more transparent, he says. "At the time, I regarded it as a I do with all my other business dealings, as a confidential transaction".
This is, for me, the most puzzling thing about Craig Whyte and Rangers - what made him think that he could sustain secrecy on deals like that, or that questions wouldn't be raised about his business background?
And that's not all. Mr Whyte also offers a bit more clarity on the £9m of unpaid tax, which we were told has built up since last May, when he took over at Ibrox.
Of that, £4.4m was the 'wee tax case' - as opposed to the £49m 'big tax case' which still awaits a tribunal ruling. The smaller bill has also been in dispute.
So what about the other £4.6m? Well, Mr Whyte says he offered to pay off what was owed with £2.5m up front, and £500,000 per month. But HM Revenue and Customs said 'no'.
It also refused his offer of paying off the big tax bill (if Rangers loses the tribunal) at £2.5m per year.
And he suggests that Rangers should have been shown a more flexible approach, as happened with Vodafone, for instance. "It was difficult to understand why they were being so inflexible unless, of course, they were simply determined to make an example of Rangers," he says.
Could it be that HMRC had been badly stung by bad publicity after doing deals with big corporates? And the tax authorities would surely be aware of Mr Whyte's past seven-year disqualification as a company director, and the reasons for it.