FORMER Rangers owner Craig Whyte has claimed he didn’t get the full picture when he bought the club and said Sir David Murray was “absolutely desperate” to get someone to take it “off his hands”.

Speaking exclusively to The Herald as his book Into The Bear Pit is published on the eighth anniversary of Rangers going into administration, he said the worst part of his involvement with the club was the effect it had on his family.

“[My kids] had other kids refusing to play with them. My parents have had a bit of abuse,” he said. 

“That is the worst part of it because it is not their fault what I choose to do.”

Mr Whyte bought the controlling interest in Rangers from majority shareholder Sir David in May 2011, and subsequently put the club into administration in February 2012 and then liquidation. Mr Whyte was cleared of fraud in relation to the purchase of the club in 2017.

Q: You write that it was only when you read the trial documents you learned the Bank of Scotland had given Sir David Murray an April 30 deadline to sell Rangers. Would it have made a difference if you had known?

I WENT into it with my eyes open. I willingly did the deal. But, yeah, the whole facts weren’t disclosed to me at the time. Murray didn’t come to me and say “I need to get this deal done by the end of April because the bank are pushing me”. He didn’t tell me that, he didn’t disclose that.

But he didn’t have to at the end of the day. We could see there was an urgency on their part to get it down. There was a lot of pressure. My lawyers and legal team at the time said “we’ve never seen anything like this, we are getting so much pressure to do a deal”.

Q: You claim that Sir David Murray downplayed the significance of the big tax case during your negotiations. You also write that he didn’t reveal the existence of side letters, which made the Employee Benefit Trusts contractual. Do you think that hardened HMRC’s attitude towards Rangers?

THERE is no doubt about that. That was a huge factor. Murray’s attitude was always the worst-case scenario in this whole thing as there was a £2 million to £5m liability from the big tax case – and this was before we knew about the small tax case.

Murray’s line was the maximum liability from the big tax case was between £2m and £5m, which is perfectly manageable for a business the size of Rangers.

HeraldScotland: 19/11/08.MURRAY PARK - GLASGOW.Rangers chairman Sir David Murray.

Because the whole tax scheme was intertwined with the Murray Group, the deal I had with them was they would manage the ongoing tax case. So we were never actually managing it ourselves within Rangers. It was always being managed by Murray’s people.

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Knowing what I know now, he was absolutely desperate to get anyone to come in and take this off his hands.

Q: You write that Sir David Murray told you that Rangers were being pursued because Keith McCurrach, the inspector in charge of the HMRC account, was a Celtic fan. Did you agree?

YOU get ingrained into the Glasgow culture. When you are sitting at Ibrox you start to think “everybody hates us, all T**s are against us”. It’s only when you take a step away from it that you think “actually, that is a bit ridiculous”.

When that was put to Keith he said: “No, no, I hate football.” I think that was closer to the truth.

I think HMRC were horrified to the extent that Rangers had broken the law. They saw it as some kind of fraud.

Q: But Rangers went into administration because you didn’t pay millions of pounds in PAYE and VAT. Why not?

AGAIN, in any other business that’s perfectly normal. Lots of businesses get behind with their VAT and PAYE, they do. They go along to HMRC, do a deal to pay it back and there’s no big deal.

There was negotiation going on with HMRC in terms of the business continuing to get to the end of the season. There was a negotiation to pay that off over six months.

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That was negotiated on the basis of the business continuing. Of course, if the business had gone into administration they wouldn’t necessarily have got that.

HMRC had said to me “whatever happens we will appeal, appeal and appeal until we win this”. Which is, of course, exactly what they did.

I don’t think HMRC handled it very well either. They could see they were never going to get that money and they would end up with next to nothing. They should have done a deal.

I know for a fact that the top HMRC guy said “we should have done a deal with Craig and not let it get to the mess that it got to”. They would have got some money. They would certainly have got all the PAYE back.

I made a proposal to HMRC in December 2011 where they would get 100 per cent of what they were owed for a soft CVA going through. They would get 100 per cent of the current tax debt that was due if they wrote off a proportion of the big tax debt. They were prepared to do it.

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As it was, they would have got some kind of dividend to the creditors, but they wouldn’t necessarily have got all the money back. The last thing I saw in the Rangers liquidation was that creditors were getting 3p in the pound. It was in that region by the time the administrators got their fees.

Q: Charles Green raised £22m at a Rangers share issue in 2012. Do you genuinely think you could have turned the Ibrox club around if you had got that opportunity?

UNDOUBTEDLY. By then, I knew the business. I knew what costs had to be cut.

It was unfortunate that Rangers had to start again in the lower leagues. It almost made what the new company had to do an impossibility with the consequent reductions in revenue and so on.

All that stems from not having a CVA. If the CVA had got through Rangers would still have been in the SPL. It got to a stage where nobody seemed to want a CVA to go through.

HeraldScotland: Charles GreenCharles Green

There have been so many unfortunate issues, from Duff and Phelps to Charles Green and Imran Ahmad and all these guys.

It has been a mess from start to finish.

Q: Did your involvement with Rangers affect your family?

THAT was maybe the worst aspect of it. My kids were in Scotland when this happened – they aren’t any more – and were young. They had other kids refusing to play with them. My parents have had a bit of abuse. That’s the worst part of it because it’s not their fault what I choose to do.

Q: Rangers fans hate you. Do you hope this book CAN change their minds?

I HOPE that they read it. Not for my benefit. So they understand themselves what happened. They’re the ones who did nothing wrong.

What David Murray did or what I did is not their fault.

They are the innocent parties. They have suffered abuse and ridicule from everybody and it’s not their fault. They don’t deserve what has happened to them. I hope they read the book. Their opinion is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter. I would just like them to know the truth about what happened.

What they think is up to the readers. I’m trying to tell the story from my side as to what happened. What people think of me is up to them. I’ve had my say. Hopefully I can go back into obscurity after this.