Rangers administration: Whyte comes out fighting as he defends record over debt
RANGERS owner Craig Whyte has claimed that the club’s liabilities decreased by more than £10million during his time as chairman.
The majority shareholder blamed the supposed intransigence of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for putting Rangers into administration, and claimed the tax authority was “on a different planet from the rest of us”.
Speaking in a radio interview, Whyte also said he thought he could do business with the Blue Knights consortium, led by former Rangers director Paul Murray. But he refused to commit himself to selling or giving away his shares in the club, leaving open the possibility that he would remain a massive stumbling block to the attempts by potential purchasers to put Rangers back on a firm footing.
Whyte, who bought Rangers from Sir David Murray for £1 last year, was responding to the announcement on Thursday by administrators Duff & Phelps that the club’s total debt could go as high as £134m. That sum included a hypothetical £75m which Rangers could owe if they lose the so-called big tax case, which was the subject of a tribunal in January, the result of which has yet to be announced.And, while the big tax case is still unresolved, Rangers definitely owe HMRC more than £14m for unpaid income tax, VAT and related sums.
It was the club’s failure under Whyte’s chairmanship to pay those taxes which led to the process of putting Rangers into administration. Despite that fact, and the evident disarray of Rangers’ finances, he insisted that his time in charge had seen an improvement at the club. “I’m not sure why yesterday’s figures surprised anyone and actually, since I’ve been involved, Rangers’ total liabilities have been reduced by between £10-14m,” Whyte said on Radio Clyde.
“The accounts prove that. It’s factual: anyone can look at the figures. The liabilities have actually reduced, not increased as the media have been implying.”
When it came to the money owed to HMRC, Whyte insisted he had been willing to come to a satisfactory arrangement to pay it. “They refused to discuss the case ahead of the tribunal, so it was impossible to have a sensible discussion with them,” Whyte said. “I offered to pay them in full the current liabilities by the end of August this year, and £2.5m a year towards the big tax case whether that be for ten years, five years or whatever. If they’d accepted that deal they would have been paid in full, but of course they don’t live on the same planet as the rest of us.”
Duff & Phelps have claimed for some time that Whyte is irrelevant to Rangers’ medium- and long-term future. Whyte did suggest he would be amenable to agreeing a deal with the Blue Knights, but refused to confirm that any such deal would involve him disposing of his shareholding.
“I will do what’s best for Rangers in the long term,” he said. “I’ve spoken to members of the Blue Knights and I don’t think there will be a problem long term in doing something with them if that’s the best deal on the table.”
Then asked if he would definitely have no part to play at the club after it had exited administration process, he added: “You can never say never, but you’d have to say it’s unlikely. Whether I remain as a shareholder or not though, let’s wait and see.”
He also claimed that Rangers would receive £220,000 for the sale of their shares in Arsenal, conducted via financial firm Pritchard, of which he was secretary. “The money is there. It’s in a segregated client account and that money will absolutely, definitely end up back with Rangers. If you’re inferring that I have somehow profited from selling those Arsenal shares personally, then that is absolutely not true.”
Whyte yesterday failed to attend a Scottish Football Association judicial hearing, which went ahead in his absence. The hearing was a preparatory meeting to discuss charges against Whyte and Rangers which are scheduled to be held over three days later this month.
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