Rangers administration: Craig Whyte still has big say in future of club, warns finance expert
CRAIG Whyte remains a significant obstacle to any takeover of Rangers and cannot simply be wished away, a leading football finance expert has warned.
Whyte, the largest shareholder in the Ibrox club, was written off as “absolutely irrelevant” to Rangers’ medium- or long-term future by Paul Clark of administrators Duff & Phelps. And would-be owner Paul Murray has talked of launching a share issue which would bring Rangers supporters on board.
But Neil Patey of Ernst & Young is convinced that Whyte will only become “irrelevant” if he agrees to do so. And he believes that any share issue of the kind proposed by Murray could only proceed with the consent of the present shareholders, Whyte included.
“Everybody, except Craig Whyte himself, appears to be assuming that when the club is sold, Whyte will no longer be a factor,” Patey said yesterday. “I can’t see why this should be the case.
“I’ve discussed this issue with several colleagues who work in the same field, and they are of the same opinion. If Whyte refuses to sell his shares and says ‘I still want to be involved with Rangers’, it’s not clear to me how the administrators or any possible new owners could deal with that.
“The administrators cannot sell a company’s shares. Craig Whyte still owns his shares. And any new share issue” – which could dilute Whyte’s holding – “has to be made with the agreement of the existing shareholders.”
In practical terms, it may be correct to say that Whyte has no future at Ibrox. He has not been sighted near the stadium since announcing he would stay away from the home match with Kilmarnock in order not to be a distraction, and the administrators have suggested he has no legal entitlement to the club or its fixed assets.
“I don’t see him as a secured creditor and I don’t see him as ongoing owner of Rangers,” Clark said at the weekend. “In terms of Rangers’ future medium to long term he is absolutely irrelevant.
“We’ve seen no evidence whatsoever of any investment by Craig Whyte into Rangers. We can’t see how he can have secured-creditor status. He has no rights, in my view, to Ibrox or Murray Park.”
But Whyte’s physical absence from Rangers, and his lack of secured-creditor status as suggested by Clark, do not alter his status as a shareholder. And that status could yet prove even more costly to the club if any players activate the “Whyte clause” which was inserted into some of the new contracts agreed last week. That clause was insisted upon by some of those players before they would agree to the massively reduced terms which were put to them by the new administrators. And, although it was intended as a statement of their opposition to Whyte, it could have a more tangible impact on any new owners.
“It’s not in everybody’s contract,” Clark explained. “But there are a number of players who did want a clause that said something like should Craig Whyte either retain or regain control of the club, then they would be entitled to a free transfer.”
“What the senior players are saying is that if this football club moves into the hands of somebody we trust, then we want to remain at Rangers. It should not be seen as the players taking an opportunity to get themselves away on a free transfer in the summer.”
Nonetheless, depending on the precise wording of that clause, Whyte’s remaining as the club’s biggest shareholder could give them that opportunity. And if even one of the most valuable players at the club took that opportunity, Rangers could lose out on several million pounds.
Meanwhile, Murray and his ‘Blue Knights’ group were proceeding yesterday with arrangements for a possible takeover of the club. Ticketus, the firm who forwarded £24.4million to Whyte in exchange for future season-ticket income, have agreed to form part of the consortium in a deal which could benefit themselves and a new-look Rangers.
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