Rangers still being run by board and not the bank, says Murray jnr

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DAVID Murray jnr last night insisted his father's company are still in charge of operations at Rangers and claimed "frustration" prompted Walter Smith's observation that Lloyds Banking Group are now running the financially-troubled Ibrox club.

Smith yesterday refused to elaborate on his weekend comments, the manager even threatening to walk out of his broadcast media conference at Murray Park unless questions were restricted to tonight's Co-operative Insurance Cup quarter-final against Dundee at Dens Park. Lloyds later issued a statement denying they are in control of Rangers, who are currently 30 million in debt, and firmly refuting one newspaper report which stated they had forced Sir David Murray's decision to step down as chairman of the club in August this year.

Murray's son, managing director of the Murray Capital investment arm of Murray International Holdings who own almost 90 per cent of Rangers, told The Scotsman the club and Lloyds Banking Group are united in their search for a new owner.

"The bank are going to continue to support the club until such time as we find somebody to buy the club," said Murray. "That is what we are trying to do. What they are trying to get towards is a sustainable business plan and so are we, if we can find someone who wants to buy the club. We have said that for a long time. Walter's comment came from a little bit of frustration.

"My father doesn't have anything to add to what has been said. As we stand, there are no firm offers for the club. It is business as normal."

In their most recent accounts, Murray International had a net debt of 760 million, of which 704 million was from bank loans, with 432 million payable within one to two years.

Lloyds now own an 11.4 per cent stake in Murray International, but Murray jnr says that has no bearing on the situation at Rangers.

"They are separate issues," he added. "This is a separate matter to do with Rangers, there is nothing to say at this stage about Murray International. There is no direct correlation."

Speculation surrounding the level of influence of Lloyds Banking Group at the club has been intense since the appointment of Donald Muir, a 50-year-old "business transformation specialist", as their representative on the Ibrox board of directors. Among Muir's assignments during the current recession was the rescue of the Northern Rock building society. But a Lloyds spokesman again insisted yesterday that they are working in tandem with the existing Rangers management team, rather than directing operations.

"Lloyds Banking Group is a bank which provides finance to many companies and households across the country," said the spokesman.

"Our interest is in helping those customers grow and prosper. We do not run or manage the companies that we bank. That is, quite properly, the responsibility of the management.

"Given the recent press coverage, we would therefore like to be clear that Rangers FC is neither operated or run by Lloyds Banking Group. We would also like to be clear that Sir David Murray's decision to step down as Chairman was a personal decision and not at the behest of Lloyds Banking Group.

"The Board of Rangers FC is developing and implementing a sustainable business plan and we have agreed to support this plan. The Group is aware of the unique position that football occupies across many Scottish communities and has been working with Scottish football clubs, including Rangers, for many years."

But Smith's appreciation of the circumstances he is working under at Rangers, where he has been unable to buy a player since August 2008 and forced to radically cut the size of his squad, make it plain his concerns are valid.

Clearly mindful of the reaction provoked by his weekend comments, Smith was unwilling to engage in further discussion on the issue with the media yesterday.

"They (the club] issued a statement and that's it," was his response to the opening question on the financial position.

The next enquiry received a similar answer, Smith saying: "I said the club issued a statement last night and that's it as far as I'm concerned, that is it finished with."

He did, however, stress again that the speculation surrounding the club and the future of both its management and playing staff, is having an impact.

"If there is a level of negativity around the place, it affects everyone, not just the players," he said.

"The thing that we have to concentrate on is the results of the games.

"We had an extremely poor result in the Champions League last week and we had a decent game with Hibs, and both teams deserve a bit of credit for the way they played.

"Now we have a difficult cup tie coming up and, while there may be levels of negativity around the place, we don't and can't allow it to affect us. You've got to overcome that aspect of it."

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