RANGERS’ administrators confirmed yesterday that they had received a fifth conditional bid for the Ibrox club, with the latest interest coming from a Singapore consortium.
The offer was submitted on Friday afternoon and, while more information is required by administrators Duff & Phelps, the bid is understood to have come from a “credible” source.
Paul Clark of Duff & Phelps has also shed fresh light on the Ticketus deal. Clark described Lord Hodge’s refusal to rule on the Ticketus deal in the Court of Session on Friday as a potential “game changer” for some of the other bidders.
There had been confusion about how the hearing had been reported but Clark said: “We’re pleased with the decision. What it means is that the destiny of Rangers’ season tickets are now in the club’s own hands and gives the ability to properly assess the competing bids. Let’s be clear on what the decision means – it gives us the power, if we think it is necessary and in the best interests of the creditors, to cancel the Ticketus rights to the season tickets.”
The administrators, as they perceive it, have the ability to make Ticketus an unsecured creditor and therefore void the company’s hold over future season ticket sales which the company believe they bought in agreeing a £20 million deal with owner Craig Whyte. That could have implications for Paul Murray’s Blue Knights consortium, who were willing to work with Ticketus. In exchange Ticketus would provide £5m working capital ahead of a share issue and agree to a much longer repayment period for the £27m they are due than the original three-year Whyte deal.
The Blue Knights’ position would appear weakened while the bids of Brian Kennedy, the Scots businessman who owns rugby club Sale Sharks, Chicago-based investment firm Prometheus/Club 9 Sports, and an un-named British consortium, boosted. The various bidders could be represented among the crowd at Ibrox at today’s Old Firm game.
“[The court decision] doesn’t rule out a deal with the Blue Knights but what it does mean is we may not be able to do a deal right away because of the other competitive bids,” Clark said “We now need to take a proper look at them at all. Really the decision is a bit of a game-changer for the other bidders because, with Ticketus in place, few, if any, of them would have put forward a sensible bid because of the loss of the season-ticket revenue. It now gives a better assessment across the whole piece. Just to be clear, we haven’t cancelled the arrangement at the moment. It’s just if we feel it is necessary. At the moment, they still do have the rights but it gives the ability to cancel and then I think they would be a creditor.
“What we want to do is analyse the bids and I would suggest we will be moving to a shortlist and that might be two or three bidders at some point next week.”
As it stands, no party has made an unconditional offer to buy Whyte’s 85.3 per cent shareholding and cover the debts owed to creditors and HMRC. All interested parties will base their offers on what might be required to go into the “pot” as a buyers’ fee. In order that there will be sufficient funds, creditors will be asked to vote for a pence-in-the-pound deal via a Company Voluntary Agreement. No clarity can emerge on the likelihood of a CVA being obtained until the result of the tax tribunal is announced, with Rangers facing a bill of up to £50m if their use of Employee Benefits Trusts is declared illegal. That outcome should be known in the next month. “It may well be next week or the week after,” Clark said.
Wrapped up with the tax case result is the Scottish Premier League’s investigation into alleged non-disclosure of payments to Rangers players between 1998 and 2010. Although there is no dispute from former owner David Murray that payments were made to players through EBTs that were not lodged with the SPL and SFA, his defence is that these were “discrectionary”, even though the rules state that all payments must be notified. However, if Rangers’ EBTs are found to be a form of tax evasion that sought to shield salary payments from full tax and national insurance contributions, potentially all Rangers players who had EBTs will not have been registered properly, raising the possibility of all games involving those players being subject to review.
Clark is unhappy that the SPL’s inquiry is on-going as he seeks to sell the club.
“There has been frustration from the Rangers fans and I share those frustrations. We have written to the SPL asking why it is necessary at this time to conduct an inquiry. They have known about the issue for some time, we still don’t have the [tax] tribunal’s decision and we would like to understand why they feel they need the inquiry now. The tribunal has not yet confirmed Rangers is responsible, so why do the SPL feel they need to look at it? Why didn’t they look at it at time it was going on?”