David Murray eyes Rangers sale before next season starts

RANGERS owner Sir David Murray says he is hopeful that a new owner will take over at Ibrox by the start of next season.

• Murray says that a swift sale is the 'best for all'. Picture: SNS

The former Ibrox chairman, who has been in talks with London-based property tycoon Andrew Ellis, told The Scotsman: "The sooner a deal is concluded the best it will be for all."

Murray, whose group of companies own 92 per cent of Rangers, said the proceeds from a sale would be used to pay off the club's debt which is understood to have fallen from 31.1 million to about 25m.

"A buyer would pay a figure to buy a debt-free club," he said, adding that "Rangers are in a much-improved position".

Rangers made an operating loss of 11.74m last year after the team crashed out of the Champions League in 2008 by losing a qualifying match to Lithuanian side Kaunas, denying the club a minimum 10m windfall from the group stages of the competition. But management have turned round their operations so that debt will be reduced and the club will be able to make a profit this year and probably next.

Murray unveiled a financial restructuring of his Murray International Holdings empire yesterday but said it would not involve Rangers, which will remain separate from the group.

In accounts for the 18-month period to last June he said he remained "completely committed to finding an appropriate investor to secure the future development and stewardship of the club".

Ellis is the only interested party who has been confirmed as in talks with Rangers, through a Stock Exchange announcement. There have been other hints of interest, mainly through the media, from businessman Douglas Park, South Africa-based Rangers director Dave King, and an underwritten Supporters Trust buy-out, but Ellis remains the main player.

Earlier this week it was revealed that Rangers are subject of an on-going HM Revenue and Customs inquiry into the club's tax affairs. Commenting on the investigation, Murray said he had received legal advice that the club would put up a defence against claims that it used offshore accounts to pay its players. "We have a strong case according to our lawyers and will robustly defend it," said the 58-year-old.

He said the tax arrangements had been in the club's accounts for many years.