RANGERS’ administrators were last night losing patience with the Blue Knights as it emerged that the latest conditional bid lodged by the Paul Murray-led consortium would amount to just £5 million in cash going to creditors – who could be owed up to £120m.
The Knights, who have submitted a joint bid with Brian Kennedy, have been told to increase their offer as time runs out to prevent the club from going into liquidation.
As it stands, the only offer for the Ibrox club considered credible by the club’s administrators Duff & Phelps appears to be the £11.2m conditional bid of the American tow-truck tycoon Bill Miller. His plan was yesterday labelled “a newco with a CVA [Company Voluntary Arrangement] as a side route” by administrator David Whitehouse, who described it as “almost there” in terms of conditions being removed.
Whitehouse, meanwhile, criticised the rubbishing of Miller’s bid by the rival consortium. There are fears that liquidation could edge closer if the US businessman is scared off by the negative press his buyout plan has attracted, while the efforts of the Knights, for whom Sale Sharks rugby club owner Kennedy has become an ally, have been praised.
“We’ve had two bids and we continue to discuss them with both parties,” Whitehouse said. “The Blue Knights bid needs to be increased so that it is more value to creditors. They need to increase it significantly. Bill Miller’s position is clear. The Blue Knights position is not clear.
“We are in detailed discussions with the Blue Knights to see if their offer can be increased to a level which will be acceptable to creditors. We would encourage both bidders to focus on finalising their bids in terms of deliverability rather than seeking to discredit the other. We only have two bids and therefore it is important that the removal of one of those does not make liquidation actually more likely. We are not in a position of supporting one over the other. Bill Miller has made it very clear that he values the support of the Rangers fans tremendously. He sees the fans as his customers in support of his bid. We would encourage the fans’ groups, therefore, to embrace both bids at this stage to keep alive the prospects of a successful outcome.” Those prospects should become clearer in a matter of days, according to Whitehouse, who accepted that “people would be fed up with hearing” of possible end-points to the bidding process. But this has been the case only because Duff & Phelps have received no bid that accounts for owner Craig Whyte’s 85.3 per cent shareholding, no “quantum” offer that makes a CVA seem genuinely deliverable and no word about the timescale for a decision of the tax tribunal that could land Rangers with a £60m bill for the use of an Employee Benefit Trust scheme.
Miller’s bid, meanwhile, is believed to be predicated on receiving “comfort” from the Scottish Premier League that its investigation into non-disclosure of payments relating to the use of EBTs from 1998 to 2010 will not bring the ultimate sanction. Yet the SPL is in no position to provide that. Equally, with the Knights’ offer conditional on Whyte’s shareholding being obtained, the club’s administrators are in no position to provide that. Add to that the fact the money to run the club will run out by the end of next month, with all players returning to their full salaries at the start of June.
The Knights are understood to be low-balling because they doubt Miller will deliver the £11.2m promised after he failed to gain control of Sheffield Wednesday and Tranmere when he came up short on terms originally offered.
The portents are not good but, for Whitehouse, the focus is on naming a preferred bidder. “This really is the last minute,” he said. “Bill Miller is basically there in terms of his bid and we would expect to know by Monday or Tuesday whether we’re dealing with Bill Miller or not and whether we’re dealing with the Blue Knights or not. Both parties need approval from the football authorities, otherwise it makes a mockery of the business plan.
“There is no reason, in our view, why these bids should drag on into the later part of next week. If the successful bidder goes down the stand-alone CVA route they can be in control of the club before the start of next season. If it‘s a newco with a CVA on a side route then they can take control by 11 May.” And if it is a newco, the old Rangers timeline will effectively end.