DAVID LOW, the Glasgow businessman who played a significant part in Fergus McCann's takeover of Celtic, has become part-owner of the Glasgow Rocks.
Low, who drew up the share-buying strategy that allowed McCann to take over Celtic in 1994, has signed contracts giving him and his business partner a 50% stake in the basketball team, who play in the Emirates Arena, across London Road from Celtic Park. Both Low and Ian Reid, the Rocks' director, confirmed the deal last night but declined to name the purchase price.
Low, who will share his stake with Joe Grimond, a Scottish entrepreneur who operates from London, said he viewed the Rocks as both a business opportunity and as a chance to develop the community projects initiated by the club. "The work the club does in schools and in the community is outstanding and I want be able to be a part of that and help it any way," said Low, a financial analyst who has offices in Glasgow.
He also said that the Rocks presence in a British League gave good marketing opportunities and indicated the brand could grow. "Basketball is also a sport that can be developed in this country," he added.
"It is obviously a major game in the USA but it is huge in Europe, with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Panathinaikos and CSKA Moscow all having teams. This a great sport to watch and I believe it has potential in what is a fabulous arena."
Low also welcomed the chance to work with Reid, a man he described as an outstanding chief executive "who is determined to make the sport a force for good in Scotland".
Reid, who is also the chief executive of Scottish Sports Futures, a Glasgow-based charity, said: "It is great to have someone like David on board with his business savvy and track record in sport."
Scottish Sports Futures seeks to educate disadvantaged youngsters through sport with the Rocks playing a major role in its work. "We visited 450 schools last year and reached 35,000 pupils throughout Scotland," said Reid. "David's experience with Celtic shows he has a grasp of the sporting business but he is also keen to continue and develop the work the club does with others."
In 1994, as Celtic lurched towards bankruptcy, Low formulated the share-buying plan that was to dethrone the board and allowed McCann to take over the club.
There is one irony in his new role at the Rocks because the Celtic season-ticket holder follows Sir David Murray, formerly owner of Rangers, in the history of Scottish basketball franchises.
The Rocks are Scotland's only professional basketball team following their predecessors, Glasgow Rangers and Murray Livingston.
The deal signals an exciting time in the development of Rocks. More than 4000 fans turned up for their first match in the Emirates Arena against Newcastle Eagles. Only Hibernian and Celtic, who play across the road, had higher attendances in Scottish football at the weekend.
Reid said: "Basketball is attractive to watch and it is an inexpensive game for both spectator and for player. There is no expensive equipment to buy and it can be played in a small area. It is an ideal sport to engage disadvantaged youngsters and our players and the club want to continue that important aspect."
Formed back in the summer of 1998, the Edinburgh Rocks played for four seasons at the Meadowbank Arena. In the 2002 season, the rebranded Scottish Rocks moved to the Braehead Arena, near Glasgow. In their first season there, the Rocks lifted their first piece of silverware, winning the BBL play-off finals with an 83-76 victory over the Brighton Bears.
In the 2005/06 campaign, the Rocks recorded their highest finishing position in the league, taking second place behind the Newcastle Eagles.
The club has endured a seven-year drought of silverware but the new leaders are aware that on-court success must be matched by progress in community work and in attracting more supporters.
"This is an excellent family experience,"said Reid. "The new arena is first-class and one can watch a game without any fears of hearing swearing or witnessing bad behaviour. This is an all-inclusive sport and we are determined to make it succesful in Glasgow."