It is a story that, depending on which side of Glasgow football’s ‘Old Firm’ fence you sit, either keeps on giving or won’t go away, even if its central figure since last May supposedly has gone away. Charles Green, erstwhile Rangers CEO and serial belier of the phrase “no-nonsense”, left the Ibrox board on the thirty-first of May, as promised when he left his headline role six weeks ago in the wake of allegations of casual racism and not-so-casual financial deception. In those six weeks, a butcher’s shop of meat has been put on the bones of what Green himself admitted was a business double-cross of previous Rangers supremo, Craig Whyte. This has been done via a Twitter account under the pseudonym “Charlotte Fakes,” and would be manna from interview heaven for experienced, insightful sports broadcast journalists. Unfortunately, the nation had to make do with Talksport radio’s execrable Richard Keys and Andy Gray (the modern-day Saint and Greavsie).
Ms Fakes (assumed to be male) has, since May 15th, produced a growing archive of audio and printed material revealing the mechanics of numerous Rangers-related business deals since Whyte emerged as a potential Ibrox suitor in October 2010, lauded by Scotland’s mainstream media as a venture capitalist with “off-the-radar” wealth. Reaction to this material has been predictable. Rangers fans have dismissed it as irrelevant or phony, more concerned – as seems traditional – with the identity of the messenger than the message itself, an attitude which arguably aided Rangers’ Whyte-inspired downfall. Non-Rangers fans, largely but not exclusively Celtic followers, have hailed it – as seems traditional – as heralding another financial collapse at Ibrox, more examples of Rangers’ unethical business methods and “cheating,” an attitude which arguably led to erroneous assumptions (pending appeal) about the “Big Tax Case” decision.
Green’s departure was one by-product of a parallel boardroom civil war, between “Rangers-men” and “spivs”, which has veered between the vicious and the proverbial school playground. The Rangers-men included non-executive chairman Malcolm Murray and non-executive director and modern Rangers legend Walter Smith, “widely acknowledged as the Club’s most successful manager,” according to the Stock Exchange announcement of his appointment as “non-executive chairman of the Board” of Rangers’ parent company. The spivs included Green and some of his cronies, notably former commercial director Imran Ahmad, who left Ibrox under a sky-full of clouds at the same time as Green’s resignation as CEO and is widely acknowledged as a creepy, sinister bully.
This battle has, superficially, had considerable heat taken out of it by Smith’s new appointment (at least until the EGM called by Green supporters for next month). The fact that Smith is considerably under-qualified for such a role is considered far less important than his ability to unify Rangers support at this time of greatest need… and season-ticket renewal. Some argue, not unreasonably, that this is cynical manipulation of a fanbase divided, appalled, dazed and confused by the boardroom shenanigans. But it is a near-perfect business decision. Indeed, if other such decisions had been made at appropriate times in recent years, Rangers’ continuing problems might not be so fraught. The problems highlighted by Charlotte Fakes could be longer-lasting and further-reaching. The one relevant comment in Green’s Talksport interview – apart from the surprisingly glossed-over “when I publish my book, everything will be in it” – was his suggestion that “we might be fighting Craig Whyte for the next ten years.” This fight, rather than handbag-swinging in the boardroom, could prove Rangers’ second downfall. Whyte’s issue is straightforward. On May 29th 2012, administrators Duff and Phelps published proposals – a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) – to take Rangers out of administration. They contained the following paragraphs:
4.17 Following…the extensive sale process, an offer was made by Sevco 5088 Limited (“Sevco”) to make a loan on certain terms in conjunction with the purchase by Sevco of the Group Shares.
4.18 Having…compared it to other offers received for the Company/business and assets, the Joint Administrators determined that the Sevco offer was preferable…
4.19 Consequently, on 12 May 2012, the Joint Administrators agreed and signed an offer letter with Sevco…and granted Sevco exclusivity to complete a takeover of the Company or a purchase of the Company‘s business and assets by 30 July 2012. Sevco made a payment of £200,000…for such exclusivity.
So, “Sevco” – Sevco 5088 Limited – were awarded, and paid for, exclusive rights to take “Rangers” over, either via a CVA or by buying “Rangers” business and assets. The CVA, thanks to the taxman’s opposition, was rejected, a scenario covered in the following paragraph:
4.23 (If)… this CVA is not approved… Sevco is contractually obliged to purchase the business and assets of the Company for £5,500,000 by 30 July 2012.
So, “Sevco” – Sevco 5088 Limited – were “contractually obliged” to pay £5.5m for “Rangers’” business and assets, something Charles Green loudly and inimitably claimed to have done when the CVA was formally rejected at a company creditors’ meeting on June 14th. The administrators’ next report to creditors, dated 10 July 2012, confirmed this in the following paragraphs:
5.47 …the CVA Proposal was rejected by creditors…on 14 June 2012 and a sale of the business and assets of the Club completed shortly afterwards to Sevco.
5.48 Following the creditors’ meeting on 14 June 2012, the Joint Administrators…confirmed that a binding contractual agreement with Sevco had been reached and the business, history and assets were subsequently transferred from the Company to Sevco.
Aside from the unheralded, transfer of the “history” to Sevco alongside the business and assets, all went as previously planned…bar one literally nominal difference. In the 29th May document, “Sevco” was formally defined as Sevco 5088 Limited, as made clear in paragraph 4.17 (above). In the July 10th document, “Sevco” was formally defined as “Sevco Scotland Limited of Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow.” But nowhere in any report to creditors, was it reported or explained how, when or why Sevco Scotland appeared. Both companies were “Sevco.” But for all the link there was between them, they might as well have been “Rangers Limited” and “Celtic Limited.” Scottish Television (STV), exclusively among Scotland’s mainstream media, reported this change. And in response, on June 27th, “Rangers” claimed that “For the avoidance of doubt, Sevco 5088 Limited bought the assets of the Rangers Football Club and then transferred them to Sevco Scotland Limited so that all the assets would be in the Scottish registered company that is Rangers FC.”
This wasn’t exactly what Green told STV’s Peter Smith two months ago. Asked about when “Sevco 5088 Limited bought the assets”, Green said: “never ‘appened.” Out of this seemingly small but actually fundamental anomaly, a whole cottage industry of speculation and, potentially, lengthy, bitter legal action has emerged. Whyte has, via (ulp!) 330 pages of audio and documentary “evidence” claimed Sevco 5088 still owned the contractual obligation to buy “Rangers’” business and assets – there being to this day no audio or documentary evidence of when, how, or even if, this obligation transferred to Sevco Scotland. All this has been placed firmly in the public domain over the last two months. But if “Rangers” statement to the Stock Exchange last week, concerning solicitors Pinsent Mason LLP’s “independent” investigation into “connections between Craig Whyte and former and current (Rangers) personnel” is a reliable guide (which legally it should be), the key questions remain unanswered.
Scotland’s media gathered round a consensus that the investigation found “no links” between Whyte and Green. But the statement said nothing of the sort, revealing only that the investigation had found “no evidence that Craig Whyte had any involvement with Sevco Scotland” or had “invested in” the current “Rangers.” And Whyte made neither of those claims. As cynics quickly noted, there was no evidence either that he “was in Dealey Plaza in November 1963,” or “had weapons of mass destruction in his living room” or (and here’s my contribution, so look away now) “had any involvement in the Watergate break-in.” So Keys and Gray were somewhat spoilt for choice as to how to put Green on the spot last Friday. And Keys’ opening gambit? “It’s nice to hear from you, Charles. You’ve been very low-profile. Where have you been?”
It was, therefore, nearly a minute into a four-and-a-bit minute slot before we got to any remotely relevant or serious discussion. Green, it transpired, had “been” in France, “painting on a roof” (presumably his own). This gave him the chance to suggest that “Andy, you think manual labour’s a Spanish centre-half” and to add “I think it was the Count of Monte Cristo exiled, wasn’t it?” (a phrase many fans might consider more appropriate with one less vowel). Key’s first ‘proper’ question was scarcely a searing one, either. “Do you feel vindicated by this statement by Rangers to the London Stock Exchange?” Green was hardly going to say “well, no, because Craig Whyte has me bang to rights.” Significantly, he eschewed the word “yes,” in favour of “I’ve always said that what went on we did to make the club secure.” And he added: “the reality is (and invariably a lie follows when Green says those words) that Rangers is secure, it’s moving forward,” a claim he’d already undermined by issuing his “fighting Craig Whyte for the next ten years” warning in the previous sentence.
But faced with this obvious contradiction, Keys simply reworded the same question: “Your resignation was seen by many as an admission of guilt, was that correct?” Again, Green was hardly going to say “yes and I’m turning myself in to Strathclyde Police.” Instead, he proclaimed that “I’ve nothing to be guilty of,” meaning nothing to be ashamed of. “What I did at Rangers… was something I’m proud of.” And despite having “no internet” in France, “so I don’t see any press,” he had still “seen from this report from Pinsents (that) everyone is now clear, apart from one man, who is completely delusional.” “Who’s that?” asked Keys. And, no, he wasn’t joking. “Oh… I see… OK,” he squirmed. “Just to be sure we’re talking about the same man. I thought that must be the case.”
There was just time for Green to make the most Freudian of slips, suggesting his Rangers “addiction” made him a “one-man club,” rather than a one-club man. Sheffield United fans might have wished the latter were true. Green might still dream of the former – at least until he can sell his shares for sickening profit. Keys and Gray will probably never deliver the promise on their Talksport website page of “unmissable debate” to go along with their “exclusive interviews with the biggest names in sport.” These biggest names aren’t going to grant such exclusives if they are going to receive the sort of grilling Martin Samuel gave Michel Platini in April. But if the price for such exclusivity is the meaningless, ill-researched drivel they and Green produced last Friday, then surely it is not worth paying.
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