Rangers: Craig Whyte on his time at Ibrox

Craig Whyte is given a police escort leaving the High Court in Glasgow in September 2015
Craig Whyte is given a police escort leaving the High Court in Glasgow in September 2015

Craig Whyte will go down as one of the most controversial figures ever in Scottish football.

The businessman bought Sir David Murray's shareholding in Rangers for just £1 in 2011, only for the Ibrox club to enter administration on 14 February 2012 with liquidation following months later.

On the day his autobiography Into The Bearpit is released, Whyte spoke to Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove on BBC Radio Scotland's Off The Ball.

Here, the 49-year-old, who was cleared of taking over the Glasgow club by fraud in 2017, says he "does not have much" to be sorry for during the saga, that he was "duped" by David Murray and explains what he would do differently if he had his chance in charge of Rangers again.

Q: When [Daily Record journalist] Keith Jackson described you as having "wealth off the radar" [prior to takeover], how did you react to that?

CW: I was stunned at that. I remember picking up the paper down at Victoria Station and I was amazed that I had been called a billionaire. It was only later on that day that I found out the story of what actually happened from the PR guys. But I was as surprised as anybody else.

Q: So what had happened?

CW: What had happened was that the PR guys I was using in Glasgow had been dealing with the [Daily] Record and had given him [Jackson] a profile of me and it said that my company managed more than £1bn in assets. Of course, managing the assets isn't the same as owning the assets. It's completely different. There was no question of me saying I was a billionaire, I never said that. That was just tabloid nonsense.

Q: When you came into Rangers, the famous line put about by Sir David Murray is that he was "duped" by yourself. Was he?

CW: I think it's more like the other way around. There were a lot of things that he didn't disclose to me so he certainly wasn't duped, and that was proved during the trial in 2017.

Q: Now, the trial in 2012, arrested and accused of fraud, and then acquitted, if you did nothing wrong in the eyes of the law, who was to blame for the entire Rangers fiasco?

CW: I think it's pretty obvious with the benefit of hindsight that they should never have entered into the EBT tax scheme. That was what was to blame, and the board that were around from the early 2000s up until 2011 kept it going. But they could've stopped it at any time when the liability was still manageable. They could've stopped buying players and could've done a multitude of things to resolve it long before I came along.

Q: Apart from that legendary pound, did you put any money into Rangers?

CW: Yes I did. The Ticketus money that everybody knows about, the infamous Ticketus deal where they put £20m or so in, was guaranteed by me personally. And they subsequently recovered seven-figure sums from me on that. I've probably put as much into Rangers as almost anybody else.

Q: Was there actually a pound? Did a pound transact?

CW: I'm told that it did. I personally don't remember it but I'm told that somebody flipped a pound over the table. But it didn't come from me.

Craig Whyte
Craig Whyte prepares to address the media and fans at Ibrox to signal their intention to enter administration

'I never look at Scottish football results'

Q: Craig, I want to go back to your early days as a young man. Were you a Rangers fan and did you regularly either go to the games or support the club?

CW: I had a period of time where I went to the games when I was at school in Glasgow and after school - probably from about the ages of 16 to early 20s I went to the games.

Q: Do you look for their results now? Do you still care, is there an emotional attachment or not?

CW: No, I don't live in Scotland. I never look at the Scottish football results. I'm in London a lot of the time.

Q: There's always been a suggestion that your life was at risk, that there had been death threats. Genuinely, do you feel under pressure over the events that led to Rangers going bust?

CW: No, I've never felt any physical threat to me. I've walked about Glasgow and never had a problem. I still do it when I come to Scotland; I walk around Glasgow city centre and most the people I encounter are good natured.

Q: Who was your favourite Rangers player?

CW: I enjoyed watching Davie Cooper when I was younger. That was probably my favourite all-time player as someone who grew up in the 80s.

Davie Cooper
Craig Whyte says Davie Cooper was his favourite Rangers player

Q: When did you realise it was doomed?

CW: You always have hope until the very end but I think there are several events that you say, well, this is going to be a problem. One of them was when I met HMRC in Edinburgh and they told me: 'look, we're going to appeal, appeal and appeal. No matter if you win the first tribunal we're going to keep appealing until we win.' Then, I knew it was going to be difficult to survive.

'I've got nothing to say to David Murray'

Q: What would you say to the Rangers fans listening right now?

CW: I'd say that, if they want to know what really happened, from the guy who was there in the middle of it all, they should read it and find out for themselves what happened. [They can] draw their own opinions from what I say. I don't think I've got much to apologise for.

Q: What would you say to Sir David Murray?

CW: I've got nothing to say to David Murray.

Q: Have you spoken to him since this whole business?

CW: I haven't spoken to him. The last time I saw him was in court in Glasgow; that was the last time I saw him. I've got no desire to see the guy again.

Q: As you reflect, is there something you would change?

CW: Yes, for sure. The main thing I would've changed, if I were to go back to 2011 and do the deal again, I'd put it [the club] into administration on the first day.

Q: You did say you're a Rangers fan. Did you go in to that venture to help the club or were you simply looking to help Craig Whyte?

CW: I was looking to make a profit, no question about that.

Craig Whyte
Craig Whyte walks on to the Ibrox pitch in 2011

'I walked away without a penny'

Q: Did you think it was possible to make a profit? You previously had a reputation for turning companies round, for asset stripping. What was your motivation? Did you think there was money there to be made?

CW: Yes, for sure. It has the potential to be a great business. It's got 50,000 people prepared to buy season tickets every year. It's quite a sticky purchase. People will go back and do it again and again. There's definitely potential for that business to make a good profit. When somebody finally turns it around, you only have to look at Celtic on the other side of the city to see what's possible, and there's no reason why Rangers in the long term can't do the same as Celtic, the potential is there.

Q: Did you make a profit? You got £24m when you went to the club via Ticketus. What happened to that money precisely?

CW: It all went into paying the bills at the club.

Q: So you didn't walk away with any of that money whatsoever?

CW: Not a single penny. The only money I ever got out of Rangers... I think once the club paid a parking ticket for me which was 60 quid and the financial controller complained about that.

Q: One emotionally very, very divisive issue, which to this day divides Scottish football, and that is are Rangers a new club? What's your view?

CW: Yes, obviously they are.

Top Stories