ADMINISTRATORS Duff and Phelps last night extended their deadline for bids to buy Rangers and rebuffed Paul Murray’s request for the process to be resolved before next weekend’s Old Firm game at Ibrox.
Murray’s Blue Knights consortium were among “several” parties to submit conditional offers for Rangers by close of business yesterday, the cut-off point which had been set by Duff and Phelps. Sale Sharks owner Brian Kennedy also lodged his bid.
Former Rangers director Murray claimed there is “no reason” why his offer could not be put in place before the club’s next home fixture against Celtic on 25 March. But David Whitehouse, managing director of Duff and Phelps, released a statement shortly before 7pm last night which appeared to make it clear there will be no rapid conclusion to Rangers’ insolvency event.
The administrators now say they remain open to alternative bids, one of which they anticipate receiving at some stage this weekend, and insist greater clarity is required on several aspects of the club’s financial crisis before any deal can be done.
Duff and Phelps will return to court on Monday to continue their bid to overturn the £24.4 million season ticket deal with Ticketus which Craig Whyte used to fund his Rangers takeover last May. Whyte’s own status as the club’s major shareholder also remains unresolved, while a tax tribunal verdict on HMRC’s potential £49 million claim against Rangers’ use of an Employee Benefit Trust to pay players is still pending.
“We are very pleased to announce that we have received several indicative bids for Rangers Football Club,” said Whitehouse. “We believe the level of interest in purchasing the club from around the world reflects the pedigree and history of the club and the fact the financial position of the business is beginning to clear and will continue to do so over forthcoming weeks.
“However, it is evident from our preliminary assessment of the expressions of interest and indicative bids that prospective purchasers are looking for clarity on certain issues at the earliest possible opportunity prior to submitting more detailed formal bids. There are complex issues to be resolved and there is no doubt they are having a bearing on the bidding process. At this stage we have indicative and conditional bids only.
“Our next step is to review more thoroughly the bids we have received and to determine which could offer the best return for creditors. This process will involve further discussions between ourselves and interested parties and will begin early next week with a view to clarifying the content of each offer. The key element of the bidding process thus far has been to give prospective bidders the opportunity to demonstrate their funding capability.
“We cannot, under our remit, exclude the possibility of a bid by any other party and interest was expressed by a party today suggesting a bid will be made over the weekend.”
Paul Murray, who has expressed his willingness to step aside if a better offer is made, outlined the key factors of his bid in a statement last night. His consortium includes representatives from all three of the main Rangers supporters’ groups as well as Ticketus.
“We firmly believe that our bid is in the best interests of the club and its fans,” said Murray. “We’re ready to go, we have the finances in place and we want to get the club stabilised as quickly as possible. Like every other Rangers fan, I’d love there to be some certainty about the future of our club before next weekend’s Old Firm game. It would provide a massive boost to the team and its fans ahead of such an important game. To our mind there is no reason why that can’t be achieved – we hope the administrators will agree.”
That agreement was not forthcoming when Duff and Phelps released their own statement, leaving considerable room for doubt over whether Rangers can come out of administration through a Company Voluntary Arrangement with creditors, as preferred by the Blue Knights, instead of liquidation.
“Through a CVA rather than liquidation, the club will benefit from being able to qualify for future European competition and access the significant revenues associated with this,” added Murray’s statement. “Preserving this revenue stream, and the club’s 140 year old legacy, is paramount and in the best interests of all parties. The consortium has the ability to provide the club with the financial stability it needs to continue to perform at the highest level of competition.”