Charles Green says path now cleared for Mike Ashley to buy stake in Rangers
NEWCASTLE owner Mike Ashley has been cleared to buy a stake in Rangers, according to Ibrox chief executive Charles Green.
Rangers recently signed a retail agreement with Ashley’s Sports Direct firm and the businessman has been looking to secure a separate deal giving him a shareholding in the Scottish Football League club. Green last week launched a £20million share issue scheme for fans and is also looking to attract institutional investors.
Green, whose consortium bought the club’s assets and business for £5.5million when it was consigned to liquidation, said yesterday: “We’ve been trying to get the position clear where Mike can buy shares in Rangers. We finally got clearance from the league after they had a board meeting recently and the meetings this afternoon were to make sure the path’s clear for Mr Ashley to invest. He’s obviously keen to do that and I’m sure that will get completed in the next few days.
“We’ve already stated previously that he’s not allowed to take a material stake because of the dual ownership position. It was made clear to the league that it would be single-digit percentages. So it’s below what I said to the financial authorities that no-one would hold more than 10 per cent. Mike will be under the 10 per cent level. There’s lots of things that we want to do with Sports Direct. Mike’s very, very influential.”
Meawnhile, Rangers manager Ally McCoist believes Craig Whyte left the main question unanswered when he gave his account of the club’s financial collapse this week – why he withheld tax payments throughout his reign.
Whyte broke a long silence in a wide-ranging interview with BBC Scotland where he made an analogy that he was only driving the train when it crashed, but did not set it on its course. But McCoist was disappointed he did not explain why £18million in tax payments were not handed over after Whyte took charge in May 2011.
The final debt to the tax authorities could be as much as £94million, depending on the outcome of a tribunal into payments made to staff during Sir David Murray’s reign, but Whyte’s non-payment was the immediate stimulus for the club going into administration on 14 February. Reacting to Whyte’s interview, which was aired on the day the old Rangers company took another legal step towards liquidation, McCoist said: “I didn’t take too much notice of it to be quite honest. I’m just a little bit disappointed the real question hasn’t been answered: why was there non-payment of PAYE and National Insurance? That, from what I was told, was the reason we went into administration.”
McCoist added: “I think he’s an intelligent man, not to buy a train that’s going to crash. If I was going to buy a train, I don’t think the first one I would buy is one I knew was going to crash.”
McCoist brushed off Whyte’s refusal to apologise to Ibrox staff during the interview. The Rangers manager, whose team host Irn-Bru Third Division leaders Queen’s Park today, said: “If he’s going to make his mind up not to apologise to any of the staff here, then that’s fine. I’m over it. We are where we are at the moment. Although it’s important not to forget what’s happened, I’m not going to look back. The only thing we can do is look forward and correct the wrongs that have been done.” Whyte denied lying over his controversial deal with Ticketus, which paid off the debt he inherited with future season ticket income, but admitted “misleading” Rangers supporters.
McCoist claimed he was unsure whether Whyte misled him. “Only Craig would know that,” he added. “Obviously there were instances where we were looking at players and a great number of players were coming up that we never got for one reason or another, whether that was me being misled I really don’t know.”
But he had an interesting response to Whyte’s claim that he told the Scottish Premier League that administration was “inevitable” four months before the event. “When did I learn it was inevitable?” McCoist said. “The day we went into administration. I was never told it was inevitable.”
McCoist’s experience of Whyte taught him to be sceptical of the consortium that took control at Ibrox with an assets purchase that allowed them to relaunch the club in the bottom tier of Scottish football. But he has been convinced to the extent that he last week accompanied Green in the City of London to launch the club’s share issue, which the Yorkshireman this week said had attracted £17million worth of pledges.
McCoist compared his respective relationships with Whyte and Green to “night and day” and explained the latter’s transparency with him had won him over.
“I honestly believed if someone like Mother Theresa had taken over our football club, the jury would still have been out because of what had happened before,” the former Rangers striker said.
“I think the supporters thoroughly deserved answers to their questions before they put their hard-earned cash into the club. They are now doing that because they have bought season tickets in quite phenomenal numbers, in the region of 36,000 supporters, who have now decided to show faith in the club that they love.”
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