AFTER months of turmoil at Ibrox, businessman Charles Green has secured the future of Rangers by striking a deal to buy the football club for £8.5 million on behalf of a multinational consortium.
At a hastily-convened press conference at Rangers’ Murray Park training ground, the Yorkshireman said “I only like to do things if you can win” and pledged: “Rangers in my custodianship will never have the problems it has had in the past.”
He promised to bring “governance and compliance” to the club, which will this week appeal against a 12-month transfer embargo and £160,000 fine imposed by the Scottish Football Association for bringing the game into disrepute under current owner Craig Whyte’s tenure.
Mr Green hopes to take Rangers out of administration with a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) with creditors on 6 June. The former Sheffield United chief executive said the consortium comprised 20 parties from the UK and across Asia.
He emerged publicly as a potential buyer at the end of last week, in the wake of American millionaire Bill Miller’s withdrawal as preferred bidder and the failure of Scottish businessman Brian Kennedy and the Blue Knights consortium to have their offer for the club accepted by administrators Duff and Phelps.
But Mr Green, 59, revealed yesterday that the possibility of leading a bid for Rangers emerged on 15 February – the day after the club was placed in administration by Mr Whyte after a court battle with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over unpaid tax and National Insurance contributions. “I was approached by a stockbroker who was a representative of a Singaporean family interested in looking at Rangers,” he said. “They asked if I was prepared to get involved.
“I said ‘No, I’m an old man, I’ve retired and I’m just breeding racehorses, I don’t want to get involved’. That was on 15 February. A week later, they came back and said they’d really like to get me involved. So I started to look.
“You know, football is addictive. I’ve been out of it for 15 years since I left Sheffield United, but I still watch games every day.
“There are 20 individuals and families who have pledged support. There are investors from the UK, from the Middle East, from Asia and from the Far East. That support is evidenced by cash in a bank account that the administrators have seen sight of. The money is ring-fenced exclusively for the purchase of Rangers.”
However, Mr Green declined to give details of who was in the consortium.
He said: “Am I prepared to name names today? Definitely not. There are a number of reasons that influence how this business goes forward.
“What I will tell you is that my mantra was not just to acquire the club on behalf of these individuals, but to make sure the structure going forward was the best for the club and its fans.
“I can assure you there will not be any investor who owns more than 15 per cent. I don’t believe any one person should own a football club. When we look round at certain big clubs where one individual owns it, there is no continuity, it is driven purely by his ability to sign a cheque. From an on-field and off-field perspective, there is no vision for the future.
“I want a model here that when I leave, the club is stabilised. Rangers in my custodianship will never have the problems it has had in the past. We will have governance and compliance within the company.
“There will be a board of directors and a plc board. We will also have a football club board and recruit people who understand this football club much better than I do. They will be the people who advise the main plc board. So we have a whole plan to take this club forward.”
Mr Green revealed that he had signed an exclusive deal with Mr Whyte to buy his 85 per cent shareholding for £1.
“I gave him a pound out of my own pocket too, so he has made a 100 per cent profit,” he added.
He said meetings with administrators began “four or five weeks ago”.
“We have been working behind the scenes; we haven’t built around rhetoric, it has been around fact,” he said.
“The difficult period of the last five months has been made worse by speculation.
“Yes, we did come in late, everyone was ahead of us, but they weren’t ahead of us in being able to put cash on the table, sign a piece of paper and give him cash.
“He [Mr Whyte] has already got my money in his pocket. That’s why I’m sat so close to him.”
David Whitehouse, of Duff and Phelps, said a CVA proposal document will be sent out to creditors on 21 May. Under it, creditors would agree to accept a percentage of what they are owed.
The major stumbling block to a CVA being passed will be HMRC – which is currently owed around £14 million even ahead of a tribunal judgment on potential liabilities in excess of £49 million – and investment firm Ticketus, which bought three years of advance season ticket sales from Mr Whyte for £27 million.
Mr Whitehouse said: “We can’t get a commitment until they see a document and have a chance to consider it at a senior level.
“In what we believe is the unlikely event of a CVA not being accepted, the deal has a backdrop mechanism to revert to a Newco strategy by which the club will survive and continue to play football in the SPL. From the major creditors’ point of view this is, without doubt, the best financial return.”
Mr Green is pinning his hopes of achieving a successful CVA on both HMRC and Ticketus accepting that receiving a certain amount of pence in the pound owed to them is preferable to the consequences of Rangers being liquidated.
He said: “We can’t be confident [about the CVA], but my upbringing and view of life is that something is better than nothing. If they turn down the cash that is in the pot, then the alternative is they will get nothing.
“I don’t believe it is in the best interests of the people of the UK, who HMRC are effectively responsible to, to turn down an offer where they receive cash to get nothing instead. In my mind, that wouldn’t be logical.
“So we are really dependent on HMRC and Ticketus, because with all respect to the other creditors, of which there are a number, in value terms HMRC and Ticketus dwarf everyone else.
“The rules of a CVA are that 75 per cent of the value of creditors must vote in favour of the recommendation. We hope they will. It’s in the best interests of them, because they’ll get something.
“It’s in the best interests, clearly, of my group, and it’s in the best interests of Rangers Football Club and the supporters.”
After yesterday’s press conference, Mr Green travelled to Perth to see Rangers beat St Johnstone 4-0.