CRAIG Whyte remains in pole position to complete a takeover of Rangers.
Sir David Murray, the club’s owner, has confirmed his support of the Whyte bid rather than the alternative plan put together by existing Ibrox directors Dave King and Paul Murray, fronting a consortium.
Herald Sport understands that the consortium members have learned that their plan is not seen as an attractive alternative to the bid put in place by Whyte, although Whyte himself would be receptive to an approach from King and Paul Murray if their offer of a £25m investment is genuine.
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That potential pooling together of resources was described by one source close to the talks as potentially “the best of both worlds” for Rangers in that the entire debt to Lloyds Banking Group would be paid off, Sir David Murray would get a sum for his 85% shareholding, and new manager Ally McCoist would get far more to spend in the transfer market. But it is unclear if King, Paul Murray and their backers would have any interest in putting money in if Whyte is the new owner.
As things stand, Sir David Murray regards Whyte’s £52.5m overall package – including £25m on players over five years – as the best option. Crucially, that is also the Lloyds view. The bank would recover all of the near-£20m it is owed if Whyte’s bid goes through.
The King/Murray consortium proposes to repay only part of the debt and continue a credit facility with Lloyds. King would put up £25m of which £15m would go to Lloyds and £10m on players etc, with a share issue then made which would be underwritten to the tune of £20m by the consortium members. But it is understood that owner Murray does not regard that as a match for Whyte’s bid.
Murray has always said he would sell the club only to someone who convinced him they had Rangers’ best interests at heart, and he is still satisfied that Whyte has the resources not only to buy the shares, but to commit to an acceptable level of ongoing investment over the next few years.
Tuesday’s dramatic statement by club chairman Alastair Johnston on behalf of the independent sub-committee of Rangers’ directors – which was set up to examine the credentials of any bidder – caused new and unexpected problems for Whyte.
The statement openly questioned and criticised how he has gone about his bid and announced the existence of the alternative proposal backed by King and Paul Murray. That revealed to Whyte that if his takeover goes ahead, it will be contrary to the wishes of most of a board of directors including Johnston, chief executive Martin Bain, finance director Donald McIntyre, former chairman John McClelland and John Greig.
That would mean Whyte putting his money in and it going into the hands of executives who had not supported him. The likely scenario in that event would be Whyte replacing them with his own new executive team as soon as was realistic after taking ownership.
In the meantime, Whyte has requested certain dispensations and safeguards from the Takeover Panel, the London-based regulatory body which administers the rules on company takeovers, in the event of him taking over against the wishes of most of the current directors.