A new regime was
installed late last night at Celtic after the extraordinary boardroom
coup. It broke a century of control for one family, but promised to
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restore the club to former glories.
Scots-Canadian Fergus McCann and Glasgow businesman Brian Dempsey, who
head the takeover consortium, however, warned that no magical wand
exists and that supporters must be patient: the depth of the club's
deep-rooted problems has still to be fully plumbed.
They argued Celtic's financial plight was such that they had moved to
prevent the club from collapse, and would require time to take prudent
rather than rash decisions on the way ahead.
Vice-chairman David Smith; club secretary and largest shareholder
Chris White; and director Michael Kelly have been ousted -- their 23%
shares in the club sold to the rebel group, bringing to a close a long
and acrimonious power struggle.
The departure of Mr White, son of former chairman, the late Desmond
White, means one of the three family dynasties which have ruled over
Celtic for 106 years has gone.
The takeover was officially confirmed at 10.45 last night, some 13
hours after the seven-strong board was called to an emergency meeting
because of a 24-hour deadline set by the club's bankers to resolve its
perilous financial position.
The Bank of Scotland had threatened receivership unless action to
reduce the reputed #9m overdraft was taken.
Club chairman Kevin Kelly, who has retained his position, announced
all matters have been resolved, including the three resignations. He
thanked them for their contributions made to the club over the years.
Mr Kelly, cousin of ousted Michael, said he had no problems with
working with the new board. He denied there was any split in the family,
and added: ''There has to be a way forward and a new era. This is what
Mr McCann, the new chief executive, now has at least 50% control, but
reiterated an earlier promise to relinquish such power within five
Along with Mr Dempsey, he warned he would be a hard task master
because they were not men with small ambitions.
Sources told The Herald that the ousted directors will each receive
#100 a share -- that is #200 a share less than offered last month by
another rebel pact not involved in yesterday's deal.
It means Mr White, who has 14.25% of the club's shareholding, will
receive nearly #300,000 compared with almost #900,000 if he had quit
Mr Smith and Mr Michael Kelly respectively walk out with #95,300 and
#66,500 -- a victory for the Dempsey-McCann consortium, who have always
insisted outgoing directors should not profit ''from failure''.
Mr Dempsey, who intervened on Thursday night to pull Celtic back from
the brink of receivership with an immediate pledge of #1m to the bank,
emphasised that no overnight change in club fortunes will occur.
He said: ''We did not have the luxury to meander through issues that
have caused concern at Celtic. The issue was to keep Celtic alive, and
the answer was yes.''
The new board's immediate role was to demonstrate to fans that new
opportunities and a new future exist.
Mr McCann agreed; time was needed to analyse the position, and he
admitted that no money for the playing side will be immediately
However, he stressed the club's financial predicament has been
resolved: ''The club is now in safe hands and the financial position of
the club is now secure.''
Mr McCann -- who described yesterday's events as a ''complete and
utter victory -- confirmed his original #17.8m rescue package rejected
by the old regime last year still stands.
It would appear about #8m of his own money will be put into the club,
with much of the rest raised via a restructuring including a shares
issue aimed at supporters. The package will be put to a shareholders'
egm to be called soon.
He will take over as club chief executive on Monday, and expects to
move to Scotland soon afterwards.
Mr McCann said: ''My message to the fans is sympathy and appreciation.
They have tolerated so much and put up with a terrible situation for so
long. I would urge them to get behind the club again and morale will
He said he was prepared to talk to millionaire businessman Gerald
Weisfeld with a view to encouraging him to investing in the Parkhead
club. Mr Weisfeld failed in a bid last month to oust five directors by
offering them #300 a share.
Mr Dempsey will not have a seat on the new board, despite launching
his power struggle when ousted after six months in 1990.
He claimed subsequent actions were not personally motivated, but based
on a desire to restore Celtic's fortunes.
Surprisingly, Mr Dempsey did not rule out a move to Cambuslang; he
said everything connected with the club is only subject of review.
Asked whether the job of manager, Lou Macari, was on the line, Mr
Dempsey said: ''That doesn't come into question at this time.''
There was a delay over an official announcement of the new board as
lawyers examined the small print of the coup.
This was to ensure the transfer of power was watertight and could not
be challenged at a later date by ousted directors.
Mr Kevin Kelly remains as chairman, with directors Tom Grant, James
Farrell, and Jack McGinn also staying on the board despite complaints
from some Celtic fans that they should have known about the club's
Also co-opted on to the board will be former Edinburgh banker Dominic
Keane, long associated with the rebel faction.
The board has been reduced in size from seven to six. That may suggest
a place is being held for Mr Weisfeld, the former owner of the What
Everyone Wants chain.
Mr Smith, who joined the board in February 1990, was appointed deputy
chairman because of his business acumen and City contacts.
However, not only did he preside over alarming losses, his ''visionary
package'' launched a week ago to relocate Celtic Park in Cambuslang and
float the business was ridiculed by the media and, even worse, the
club's bank was not prepared to go along with it.
Mr Smith, when he flew in from London where he works, had said he
would not resign. But a spokesman for Mr Smith acknowledged defeat when
he said: ''He has no more rabbits to pull out of the hat.''
The official, who also speaks for Mr Patrick Nally, of StadiVarios,
the company charged with raising finance for the Cambuslang project,
said he was shocked by the turn of events that jeopardised the scheme,
one of six in the UK involving Superstadia Ltd for sporting arenas.
Former Lord Provost Michael Kelly's removal coincided with his Glasgow
public relations firm losing one of its most important clients --
None of the ousted directors would comment yesterday, and they were
still locked in talks with financial and legal advisers last night.
Negotiations with the trio lasted all day after an emergency board
meeting was called.
Messrs Kelly, Grant, Farrell, and McGinn had been told the club was in
''immediate and dire peril'' of being put into receivership. They were
given 24 hours to pledge all their shares and proxies against the
mounting overdraft, and sought an accommodation with the McCann-Dempsey
consortium. It has already pledged #1m, with #5m to follow on Wednesday.
The final straw for the bank was the revelation that only a
conditional agreement, in principle, to provide guarantees of up to #20m
towards construction costs of a #50m Cambuslang stadium was in place.
The new regime is likely to remain at Parkhead, where money will be
made available to make Celtic Park an all-seater stadium.
Mr Smith's grandiose plan to relocate Celtic collapsed after a
spokesman for little known Geneva-based merchant banker, Gefinor, denied
it had any involvement in the project.
Directors arrived at Celtic Park up to an hour early for the scheduled
10am board meeting.
Shortly after 2pm, Celtic's new saviour arrived. However, it is
doubtful whether the slightly built Canadian-based tycoon expected quite
such a welcome.
His arrival sparked a frenzied response from the group of about 100
fans, who had been camped outside the stadium. They immediately broke
Despite the icy wind and rain, the numbers outside the stadium
continued to swell.
There was a further flurry of excitement just after 4pm when Mr McGinn
left the stadium via a rear door and into a waiting car which sped off.
His sudden departure aroused speculation that he, too, had been ousted
but it was later revealed that his departure was due to UEFA commitments
The growing unease among the fans was appeased an hour later when new
director, Dominic Keane, came outside.
Mr Keane delighted his captive audience by predicting a swift return
to the glory days. ''I am absolutely confident that under Brian and
Fergus Celtic can only go one way and that's to the top.
''It will all fall together and bring Celtic back to the great days,
not only in Scotland but Europe.''
The director remained optimistic that his financial acumen gleaned
from more than 21 years in the banking world would prove invaluable in
improving Celtic's standing within the business community.
Earlier Matt McGlone, who spearheaded the Celts for Change campaign,
said that he was absolutely ecstatic by the day's developments. In fact,
he went as far as to say it was the best day in his life.
He described the ousting of the three board members as a victory for
every Celtic fan although he voiced regret that there was not a ''clean
''There can be no respect for the board members who have remained.''
The Celtic for Change campaign had booked the City Halls in
Candleriggs, Glasgow, for a rally on Monday night with Mr Dempsey and Mr
McCann invited to speak. This event, Mr McGlone said, would now become a
Earlier, Celtic player Charlie Nicholas warned fans not to expect
Speaking after training, he said: ''There is no guarantee for
immediate success. However there is certainly more hope with a man like
Brian Dempsey heavily involved.''
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