Rangers takeover: Bill Miller edging closer to Ibrox control
ON A day of fresh drama for Rangers, American businessman Bill Miller moved further ahead in the race to gain control of the club, as administrators Duff & Phelps called his bid “very close to deliverable”.
However, Duff & Phelps again said they needed more time before nominating a preferred bidder.
Miller, who stepped back from the process on Friday to allow Paul Murray’s Blue Knights consortium more time to put together a rival bid, announced yesterday that he was pressing ahead with his takeover plan as the Knights had not made progress. However, he added that he would not demand to be named preferred bidder at this stage, and was willing to allow the Blue Knights still more time.
David Whitehouse of Duff & Phelps – speaking before last night’s developments at Hampden which saw the SFA issue Rangers with a one-year transfer ban and £160,000 fine as well as a lifetime ban and £200,000 fine for owner Craig Whyte – praised the efforts of both parties to formulate an acceptable bid, and confirmed that Murray and his colleagues had yet to make an offer for the club, which was put into administration by Craig Whyte on 14 February.
“The Blue Knights are still trying to pull together their bid,” Whitehouse said. “So that we are clear, we have not had a bid on the table from the Blue Knights for us to accept or not.
“Bill Miller is seeking to get clarity from the football authorities with regard to a once-and-for-all level of penalties” – that is, points reductions or other punishments of Rangers – “that might apply in the event of him going ahead with his bid.
“He was trying to get clarity over the weekend, hasn’t got that yet, but has made some progress. So I would guess, with him, it will be a couple of days. But he has made it clear that he effectively is leaving the door open for the Blue Knights, because he doesn’t want to walk into a hostile takeover scenario. There has been a lot of vitriolic comment from fans’ groups et cetera, in relation to his bid, which from our point of view seems to be ill-informed. There has been a constant e-mail bombardment.”
A major concern for both Miller and Murray is the possible reaction of the footballing authorities – both the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and the Scottish Premier League (SPL) – to Rangers’ predicament. Murray’s plan for the club to leave administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) is a straightforward one, readily comprehended by the SPL’s current regulations. But it is unclear how Miller’s proposed ‘hybrid’ of a CVA and a new company would be dealt with by the SPL as things stand.
The SPL is meeting next Monday to vote on proposed new penalties for clubs which run into financial trouble, but Whitehouse said he hoped a solution could be found before then. If that hope is realised, he implied, Miller would have made a significant step towards having a workable plan for Rangers.
“If it’s deliverable, which it’s very close to being, the Bill Miller bid seems to be a very strong bid for the club,” Whitehouse continued. “Its two requirements are to mitigate – in fact, remove – future footballing penalties, if he can get to that position, and also to provide quite healthy structure moving forward. We haven’t had any assurances from the football authorities on penalties. But we know that they are talking. There is a dialogue.
“I would expect and very much hope that it won’t last that long [that is, until 30 April]. It should be done before then. It’s not in our hands to say what penalties he’ll face.
“We want to accept a bid as quickly as possible. In so far as delivering to creditors are concerned, we believe that as long as the bids don’t change in terms of quantum, we could deliver either. We are very much in the hands of the bidders to provide unconditional confirmation that they will proceed.”
Miller, who planned to have more discussions last night with Rangers manager Ally McCoist, issued a brief statement through the administrators. “After speaking with the administrators today, I understand that no other bidders have stepped up to offer to save Rangers,” he said. “As I stated on Friday, if there were no other bids by close of business Monday, I would begin the process to acquire Rangers according to the plan I outlined on Friday.
“At the request of the administrators, I will wait to enter into exclusivity in order to give The Blue Knights/Ticketus more time to put an alternative offer on the table for the administrators to evaluate.
“I will leave it to Duff & Phelps to determine when they want to identify their preferred bidder. Until then, I am moving forward with my process and continuing my discussions with all related parties.
“I can confirm that I did have confidential conversations with the SFA and PFA Scotland representatives. Finally, I will be having discussions with Ally McCoist later to discuss his recommendations regarding the players.”
Miller plans to carve out Ticketus, the company which is owed more than £26 million by Rangers after lending that money in exchange for the revenues from future season-ticket sales. The Blue Knights initially had an agreement with Ticketus to be part of their consortium, but last week Ticketus appeared to have reached an agreement with another bidder, Bill Ng of Singapore.
Since Ng withdrew his bid, the Blue Knights and Ticketus have been trying to strike a new deal. That attempt is key to any bid by the Knights meeting with Duff & Phelps’ approval. “Ticketus and the Blue Knights need to reach terms,” Whitehouse added. “And if they can’t before Mr Miller is able to proceed with his bid then we will proceed with his bid.”
Whitehouse also sought to allay fears that Miller’s strategy involved liquidation. “It is a newco in the short term, yes. But it wouldn’t involve liquidation. It’s being painted as a liquidation scenario. It isn’t. The business can effectively be ring-fenced whilst a CVA is brought to a conclusion, then brought together in a structure that carries the minimal level of football penalties.
“If he can do it before the start of the new season, the 30 April penalties wouldn’t apply. That’s the logic behind it. He doesn’t have to put the two companies back together again before the start of the new season. But the operating company would be in a newco before the start of the new season – and therefore wouldn’t be subject to the sanctions.
“His bid is conditional upon him reaching agreement with the authorities. He hasn’t done that yet. So there isn’t a bid on the table today that we can proceed with. I can say that he does seem to be making pretty energetic progress. Best indications are that [a bid] will be during the course of this week, but we will have to see.”
Whitehouse warned that time is running out in the bid to haul Rangers out of administration. The club has secure funding until the end of the season, but if a new owner is not found by then, the picture is grim.
“We have a short period of time in which the business is effectively funded, which is to the end of the season. Given how extensively this has been marketed, if nobody is prepared to buy the business, we face a pretty bleak future.
“What we’ve been saying is that avoiding liquidation is in the gift of the purchasers. It’s only by finding a purchaser and investor will you have avoid liquidation. The fact is that these bidders need to step up. In terms of a timetable, we’re still on schedule to exit through a CVA in time for next season. There comes a point where bidders have had more than adequate opportunities to come up with proposals.
“Paul Murray is aware of that and has been working pretty tenaciously to table a bid which we could move to accept. It’s the same with Bill.”
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