ALL three of the remaining bidders for Rangers have refused to rule out liquidating the club, should they get their hands on it in the coming weeks.
It emerged on Friday that Club 9 Sports, one of the groups interested in purchasing the club, have liquidation as part of their strategy (thought it not is their only strategy), but it is now believed that the other two, the Blue Knights and a Singaporean consortium, would also consider forming a new company if they felt they had no other option.
Probably for the first time in public, the Rangers administrators gave serious credence yesterday to the possibility of the club having to be liquidated. They don’t see it as a fait accompli, but they have certainly altered their position, which was previously to say that liquidation was not really on the cards.
“The preferred option remains a CVA,” said co-administrator Paul Clark. “And we still think it’s achievable and we’re still recommending that as the preferred course of action to the bidders. We must accept, though, that we have in Rangers a financially-stricken institution and there is an amount of toxicity in there as a result of what’s gone on. So all of the options have to remain open and it may be that some of the bidders decide that they would rather start afresh. We prefer a CVA but it has to be a credible arrangement. It’s a fine balancing act.
“CVA is our option and it remains an option for all of the bidders. However, we cannot rule out the winning bid could prefer a different structure that meant the sale of the business to a new company and in that eventuality it is certainly possible that Rangers would be liquidated, but it would only be done so after the football club was made safe.”
In what has become an intensely complex affair, Duff & Phelps have called for final and best bids by Wednesday. They are keeping the door open to all-comers until then, including any party who might not yet have got involved, or Brian Kennedy who stood back from the process last week.
The best-case scenario is that, by Friday of this week, or more likely just after Easter, a preferred bidder will be announced. Clark refused to comment on speculation that Club 9 are in the box-seat now. “Very soon we will have our front-runner, our single party and that party will enter into an exclusivity period of probably two to three weeks so we can get the final deal in place. Our strategy remains to have an owner installed before the end of the season. It will be tight but it’s feasible. We will be locked into an agreement with one party either side of the Easter weekend. The situation remains fluid. I don’t think you should assume that each party has just come up with a single solution [CVA or liquidation].”
It is understood that all parties have different scenarios in their bids, a plan for a CVA and a plan for liquidation and even, in the case of at least one of the bids, some kind of intricate hybrid of the two. Clark repeated his view that Craig Whyte will not be an impediment to a sale without explaining precisely what their plan is to remove him from his shareholding. It emerged also that the police have tried to contact Whyte as regards concerns they may have for his personal safety if he proves stubborn and refuses to back away from the scene. Whyte, it’s believed, hasn’t yet responded to their calls.
Paul Murray, of the Blue Knights, was critical of the administrators yesterday in that regard. “The administrators believe there are legal mechanisms to get the shares from Craig Whyte. What I’d say is, why didn’t they start that legal action seven weeks ago, rather than now? The last thing Rangers need is more protracted legal battles. There are so many things to sort out – player contracts for instance,” he said. “If it’s not resolved in the next couple of weeks, I fear they might not be able to do a CVA.”
In terms of the stories linking West Brom with a bid for Steven Naismith, the administrator wouldn’t directly confirm or deny it, but he did say there’s been interest in some of the Rangers players. “I will say that we have had approaches in relation to player transfers. We’ve had some approaches and we will have discussions with Ally McCoist before any decisions are made. We’re not in a position to make any decisions at the moment in any case.
“I should say that it was only a few weeks ago that the players made sacrifices in terms of accepting huge cuts to their salary and had they not accepted those cuts then the issue of bids for players wouldn’t have existed because we would have had to let them go. They might not have been around to attract offers. There wouldn’t have been any decisions to make. They’d have been gone.”
If there is a feeling that we are approaching endgame in the purchase of the club, there is still much uncertainty about what that outcome might look like. From their position of downplaying a liquidation, the administrators have shifted somewhat. The coming week will be another full of frenzied activity.