CHARLES Green, the head of the consortium which was set to take over Rangers, last night accused Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs of “misleading” the club.
• CVA proposal set to be rejected by HMRC at meeting on Thursday
• Charles Green set to push ahead with plans to buy assets and form a ‘newco’
• HMRC believe liquidation will allow them to pursue individuals for the £21 million debt they are owed
• The decision casts Rangers’ SPL status into further doubt
Green, whose plan to take Rangers out of administration was thwarted by HMRC’s refusal to go along with it, also claimed the tax authority had given the club’s fans false hope that his Company Voluntary Arrangement would succeed.
HMRC’s announcement that it will vote against the CVA at tomorrow’s meeting of creditors means Green will not get the percentage he needs for it to be accepted. Instead, Rangers will go into liquidation and he will buy the assets from administrators Duff & Phelps, with whom he has a binding agreement.
Although it had been thought in some quarters that Green wanted to go down the liquidation route all along, he insisted that was not the case and said he had spent a lot of money on his attempt to set up the CVA. He instead claimed it was HMRC which had planned to liquidate the club all along.
“It’s a sad day for the club, for the fans,” the Sheffield-based businessman said. “After what they have been through in the past few years, to get to this stage.
He added: “HMRC have got a lot to answer for. It’s massively disappointing and I think to some extent we have been misled by HMRC.
“Duff & Phelps have consistently said to me that they were in dialogue with HMRC and that they hadn’t rejected the CVA route. To see them today saying this is a policy decision leaves me speechless. If that’s the case, is that a policy that was invented this week?
“If not, why weren’t we told that in February or March? We could have gone into a newco then and saved a huge amount of money and time. It would also have removed the false hope from Rangers fans.”
Earlier, announcing its decision to oppose the CVA, HMRC said it had not represented good value for the taxpayer. It now plans to investigate how Rangers have been run over the past few years, and implied that legal action to recover funds could be taken against unnamed individuals. Former chairman Craig Whyte took the club into administration in February after it was revealed he had failed to pay millions of pounds in tax.
“A liquidation provides the best opportunity to protect taxpayers, by allowing the potential investigation and pursuit of possible claims against those responsible for the company’s financial affairs in recent years,” the HMRC statement said. “A CVA would restrict the scope of such action.
“Liquidation will enable a sale of the football assets to be made to a new company, thereby ensuring that football will continue at Ibrox. It also means that the new company will be free from claims or litigation in a way which would not be achievable with a CVA. Rangers can make a fresh start.”
Insolvency firm BDO will be appointed as liquidators, and will carry out the investigation on behalf of HMRC. Green’s agreement with the administrators means he will now buy Rangers’ assets for £5.5million, with the whole process expected to start almost immediately after tomorrow’s meeting of creditors, according to Paul Clark of Duff & Phelps.
“We assume that, regardless of what the other creditors’ views are, on Thursday, some time around late morning/lunchtime, the CVA will be rejected and we think the meeting will now be a very short one,” Clark said. “What we’ll be seeking to do as soon as possible following that rejection is to finalise and formalise the sale of the business and assets, effectively picking up everything that is currently residing in Rangers plc and moving it to a new company which will then become the corporate shell for the Rangers FC.
“The whole point is not to allow the football club to do anything other than exist. It’s just to change the name over the door if you will. There is no prospect of any further bids coming in from other parties.
“We’ve got a binding agreement with Charles Green that, if we could save the company via a CVA that was the preferred option, but, if that couldn’t take place, we’ve already negotiated with him the transfer of the business and assets and that’s what we’ll now move to. I very much expect that sale to be concluded later this week, but not until after the CVA is rejected on Thursday.”
Asked how quickly the existing company would be liquidated, Clark continued: “I would suspect it would take six to ten weeks. It will be in the foreseeable future as opposed to months or years ahead.”
Whenever it happens, it will be the death of the company formed in 1899. “Obviously it’s a very sad day for the club,” said former director Paul Murray, whose Blue Knights consortium failed to win preferred-bidder status from Duff & Phelps.
“But one of the very few good things that might come from this is that BDO have significant powers of investigation and it’s to be hoped that a detailed investigation will take place into everyone involved, particularly Craig Whyte and Duff & Phelps.” Former Rangers owner Sir David Murray offered a brief statement last night. “It’s an awful day for the history of Rangers Football Club, and I genuinely hope the newco is able to meet the ambitions of Rangers supporters,” he said. “I will be more than available to assist an inquiry from HMRC or any other authorised body.”
Green knows he will be labelled by some as the man who took the club into liquidation, but claims he deserves credit for trying to resurrect it. He said: “Everyone had the chance to bid for this company from February 14 until May 13 when I was given exclusivity, whether it was Blue Knights, Bill Miller or a host of other people who had approached the administrator, and no-one had either put a credible deal on the table, signed a cheque, or could complete.”