So, like the pantomime Demon King, Craig Whyte returned to the Rangers fray yesterday, giving an interview to BBC Scotland’s Chris McLaughlin.
Mr McLaughlin describes Mr Whyte as having promised that nothing was off the table. According to Mr McLaughlin, “He kept his promise and was surprisingly frank”.
What did he have to say about his dealings with Mr Green?
According to Mr Whyte:-
“I was the one who found a buyer – it wasn’t Duff and Phelps. My colleagues in London – when no credible buyer was coming forward – went out and used our contacts in the city to find… to put a suitable deal together.”
When asked if he was the one who had brought Mr Green to the table, Whyte answered: “Absolutely. I introduced them to Duff and Phelps.”
Asked if his relationship with Charles Green and Rangers was okay, he replied: “Yeah, sure. I think given the public perception of me, people are keen to distance themselves from me publicly. But I have no problem with the current management of Rangers.”
Mr Green hit back with a statement issued via the official Rangers website today.
“Yet again Craig Whyte’s version of events paints a misleading picture of what actually happened and it’s regrettable that the BBC is providing him with such a platform.
“The facts are that direct contact was made by our consortium with Craig Whyte in the first instance as it appeared at that time that his shares would have to be secured in order for any purchase of the Club to progress.
“I was not present when contact was initially made but subsequently met Craig Whyte who introduced me to the administrator.
“I had no previous association with Craig Whyte and it is misleading to suggest he ‘brought us in’.
“I was brought to the transaction by Imran Ahmad following Duff and Phelps contacting Zeus Capital’s Manchester office in February, due to their experience in the football sector.”
On first reading, especially in light of Mr Green’s reference to a “misleading picture”, the two are clearly at odds. However, closer analysis suggest that they both could be right.
According to Mr Green he became involved after Duff & Phelps contacted Zeus Capital. However Mr Whyte says he found Mr Green’s group, introducing them to Duff & Phelps.
Why would Mr Green deny any connection, if there was one which was entirely innocent and above board? After all, Mr Green does state that Mr Whyte “introduced” him to the administrator, which agrees with what Mr Whyte says.
It should be noted that both Mr Whyte and Mr Green have a record, occasionally, of saying things which do not turn out to be entirely accurate. This is not therefore a case of taking Mr Whyte’s word over that of Mr Green.
It would have been helpful if Mr Whyte had clarified when he introduced Mr Green’s team. He suggests that it happened as “no credible buyer was coming forward”. That implies that it was some time after the administration commenced in February. However, we know from the investigations carried out by Mark Daly of the BBC that Mr Whyte was in discussions regarding administration with Duff & Phelps prior to 14th February. Had D&P or Mr Whyte already been putting feelers out for prospective buyers even then?
Mr Green mentions that it was in February when Duff & Phelps contacted Zeus Capital, prior to Mr Whyte’s introduction.
Let’s go back to February 2012. Administration had been forced on Rangers and Mr Whyte expected a quick resolution, having, he claims, reached an agreement with Duff & Phelps to cap their fees at £500,000.
It would clearly be in Mr Whyte’s interests to find prospective buyers for the company, and as he held, via his company, 85% of the shares, the purchaser was going to need his approval. (As it turned out, the company being divested of the assets meant that his approval was not needed, but until the CVA proposal was rejected that was the plan.)
Duff & Phelps too wanted to find a buyer as soon as they could, especially as they had a primary duty as administrators to try to rescue the company as a going concern.
The list of people realistically interested in buying a football club would not be a long one. As a businessman, and having been involved in Rangers, including his time preparing the purchase, for around 12 months by that stage, there is no doubt he would have been aware, directly or via his associates of prospective new owners.
It shows how toxic the reputation of Mr Whyte has become amongst Rangers fans that Mr Green is willing to deny a legitimate connection in an effort to avoid any suggestion at all that there is collusion between them or their respective companies.
It is noteworthy that Mr Green denies direct contact with Mr Whyte, even though Mr Whyte does not allege such contact took place. Mr Green is a very smooth operator, far more confident in the media spotlight than Mr Whyte, and well-versed in the ways of answering questions he wants to answer, rather than the question he has been asked.
So where does this exchange leave matters?
Mr Green clearly wants there to be no connection whatever with Mr Whyte, even if there was one, no matter how innocent. He is in the throes of floating his company, and the spectre of Mr Whyte hanging around could persuade enough Rangers fans to abandon support for the float for fear of benefiting Mr Whyte.
Mr Whyte, perhaps consistent with his apology to Rangers fans, wants to show that he has made positive contribution, in this case by locating the now-popular Mr Green. He may hope some of the Green kudos might rub off on him and enhance his reputation.
Quite why Mr Whyte has chosen to reappear now is something he could have been asked. It cannot be for commercial reasons, can it?
Of course Mr Whyte is engaged directly in litigation with Ticketus concerning his personal guarantee over the money paid by them for season tickets. He is indirectly involved in litigation between the administrators and Collyer Bristow, where it is alleged his former associate, Gary Withey, was part of a conspiracy to harm Rangers.
On the face of it, Mr Whyte’s involvement in Rangers has brought him the pleasure of standing on the pitch in May 2011 celebrating the SPL victory, but on the other side of the ledger, notoriety, negative publicity and losses of millions of pounds.
How realistic is it that a businessman with Mr Whyte’s extensive track record would be “walking away” from the matter, if there was the possibility of getting something back?
Remember too that what was seen as the “control” Mr Whyte had over Rangers, even in administration, was the Floating Charge initially granted by Rangers to the Bank of Scotland and then assigned to Rangers FC Group Ltd (Mr Whyte’s company) when the takeover happened.
The administrators decided that the Floating Charge was of no effect as there was no debt owed by Rangers to RFC Group Ltd. Has that been accepted, or might the company which now holds the benefit of the Charge, with Group having granted a charge over all its assets to another part of the Whyte empire, re-emerge too, especially where this could cause problems with the share flotation?
Maybe there is a second interview planned with Mr Whyte where he answers all these questions. We can only wait to see.
Written by Paul McConville