Rangers takeover: Plea for unity as Walter Smith pulls out of bid

MALCOLM Murray has promised that the newly constituted Rangers will disprove the doubts expressed by Walter Smith’s consortium, who abandoned their attempt to wrest control of the club from Charles Green and his fellow investors.

• Walter Smith consortium withdraw from process to buy Rangers

• Their £6m bid was rejected by Charles Green

• Former manager will play no part in Green’s team

On yet another tumultuous day in the saga of the stricken Ibrox club, former manager Smith announced the “complete withdrawal” of his consortium which had included leading Scottish businessmen Jim McColl and Douglas Park.

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In his statement, Smith passed on his best wishes to the Green-fronted group for their stewardship of the “newco” Rangers but also expressed reservations over their business plan and confirmed his rejection of the former Sheffield United chief executive’s offer for the rival consortia to join forces.

Ayrshire-born businessman Murray, appointed chairman of newco Rangers by Green last week after the failure to take the existing club out of administration by a Company Voluntary Arrangement with creditors, responded to Smith’s comments last night with a call for unity among all interested parties.

Murray, who says he enjoyed productive talks with team manager Ally McCoist and representatives of the club’s support yesterday, insisted that the newco Rangers will be run with the highest levels of financial integrity as they seek to recover from the ruinous management which led their predecessors towards liquidation.

“On behalf of the board of directors I would like to reaffirm the long-term commitment of the investors who acquired the club last week,” said Murray. “The consortium is wholly committed to rebuilding Rangers and their investment is regarded as a strategic long-term project.

“As I have said previously, I am not in this for personal gain and what is of paramount importance is the club regains stability both in financial and footballing terms.

“Since the announcement last week by the Walter Smith consortium, our position as a board has been clear in that we would welcome constructive dialogue with all those involved. The Green consortium said last Thursday evening that it was not looking for a sale and that is the view of the investors.

“We can, however, say to supporters that the assurances the Walter Smith consortium are looking for regarding financial probity and high standards of corporate governance will be met. Following the announcement today on behalf of the Walter Smith consortium, the board would urge all Rangers fans to now get behind the club. We have huge issues to address in terms of the club’s status within the SPL and SFA and it is important that we unite prior to decisions being taken about the club’s future by the football authorities.

“We continue to welcome any input from members of the Walter Smith consortium or other stakeholders who have Rangers’ interests at heart. These matters are of critical importance to us all as Rangers fans.

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“All fans, myself included, have gone through enough anguish in the last year and it is now time to move forward. The most important thing of all is working together to deliver a successful future for Rangers and Scottish football. I have had good discussions today with Ally McCoist, Sandy Jardine and members of the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund and all are agreed it is important for the club to move forward.”

The earlier announcement of Smith’s exit came as unexpectedly and suddenly as his dramatic call for Green to step aside last Thursday, the day of the failed CVA meeting at Ibrox which led to the Yorkshire businessman’s consortium buying the assets and business of Rangers.

The £6 million offer from Smith’s group was lodged with Zeus Capital, the Manchester-based investment banking company who completed the £5.5 million acquisition on behalf of Green’s consortium. Two of Zeus Capital’s directors, Imran Ahmad and Brian Stockbridge, have joined the board of the newco Rangers alongside chief executive Green and chairman Murray.

In his statement yesterday, Smith said Green and Zeus Capital had been unable to provide his consortium with “comfort” regarding the names of their investors and the amount of money they would be putting into the club. “I would like to clarify the background to the offer of £6m for the assets of the club which I announced on Thursday 14 June 2012,” said Smith. “The offer was made to the administrators before the Charles Green consortium had concluded their transaction to acquire the assets at £5.5m from the administrators.

“We felt it necessary to have a fall-back position to secure the club’s future. We have since made the same offer of £6m to the Green consortium through Zeus Capital.

“Our offer has been rejected and they have made a counter-offer inviting us to join their consortium. However, the current business plan is not in accord with our understanding of the present circumstances of the club and the way forward, but we would prefer to leave them to proceed in their own way and we wish them good luck in their endeavours.

“Members of our consortium had met with Charles Green and Zeus Capital prior to the CVA meeting and it had been agreed that we would be provided with significant information which would give us comfort as to the identity of the consortium members, their strategy and their funding capacity. This information had not been forthcoming. We are therefore withdrawing completely from the process to enable Charles Green and his consortium to move forward. We very much hope the verbal assurances they provided to us – and the public statements made – are adhered to and that the club will therefore be financed and managed with appropriate governance and can go forward in a sustainable manner. We wish the new Rangers Football Club every good fortune.”

Green responded last night, admitting once again that he faces a major task to earn the faith of the Rangers supporters. But he stressed his priority is to try and secure newco Rangers a place in the SPL for the 2012-13 season. The SPL clubs will meet at Hampden on 4 July to vote on whether to admit Green’s newco, with at least an 8-4 majority required. “I fully recognise there is a huge job to be done to rebuild the trust between the fans and the club which has been badly broken,” said Green. “I will do everything I can to help rebuild Rangers and the most important challenges we face at the moment are about our future and what league we play in. I can assure fans that I will work tirelessly in the interests of the club to secure its future.”