Why Rangers owner Whyte wanted 'his' administrator on site
It was a strange sort of case, with both parties apparently seeking the same verdict. More or less. As Rangers and HMRC fought for the right to appoint an administrator to a club circling the drain, why did the identity of the firm selected matter so much
Because allowing Craig Whyte to choose a company with which he has a prior business relationship undoubtedly creates the impression of a carve-up in favour of the Rangers owner.
Given that one senior figure at Duff & Phelps was there with Whyte on the day that he marched into Ibrox as the new saviour of ‘his’ club, and considering the leeway available to administrators when it comes to deciding who gets paid what, you can see why HMRC protested.
Their counsel actually told the Court of Session on Tuesday: ‘The position of HMRC is that it is appropriate this company be brought under independent control of some person who has no involvement in this company prior to this date.
Men for the job: Paul Clarke and David Whitehouse from Duff & Phelps talk to the press on Tuesday
‘The proposed administrators nominated by the directors of the club have been advising the club for six months or more.’
Putting it more bluntly, Ernst and Young football finance analyst Neil Patey told Sportsmail: ‘It’s not good for public perceptions of independence if that company is associated with the owner already.
‘HMRC were careful in their court submission not to imply any impropriety. But it’s about a perceived lack of independence.
‘Why Because, if they go down the route of trying to reach a Company Voluntary Arrangement, there are a lot of situations where there is no right answer. There are a lot of judgment calls to be made when you are an administrator. The concern is that some of these might be seen to be biased in favour of Craig Whyte.
‘They are professional people, the administrators at Duff & Phelps, and they are working within the statutes and acting as officials of the court, in essence.
‘When you view it that way, the actual identity of the administrators shouldn’t matter. Whoever you appoint, they should do exactly the same job.
Rangers crisis in numbers…
1 – Paid by Craig Whyte to Sir David Murray for Rangers last year.
2.45 – The time Rangers entered into administration yesterday after a deadline was set by the Court of Session for the club to appoint an administrator following a morning of legal wrangling with HMRC.
10 – Points deducted from the Ibrox club by the SPL following Tuesday’s move into administration.
230 – The number of Rangers employees who now face a period of uncertainty over their jobs.
5m – What Everton paid Rangers for star striker Nikica Jelavic just two weeks ago.
9m – The total unpaid tax bill since Whyte took over in May 2011, according to the administrators, Duff and Phelps.
24m – The figure allegedly borrowed by Whyte on future season-tickets sales from Ticketus prior to his takeover.
75m – What Whyte alleges the bill from the case brought by HMRC against the club could spiral to with penalties and interest taken into account.
‘But there is a lot of leeway in all
aspects of the job, starting with the day-to-day running of the club,
working out which costs can be funded and which need to be cut.
‘I suspect they will have to look at the playing staff. If ever there was a judgment call, that’s one right there.
‘When it comes to putting forward a plan that satisfies creditors, starting with Craig Whyte as the secured creditor, they have to work out a fair settlement.
‘So they will be saying to creditors: “You get so much, you only get this much, etc”. ‘They can say what they believe to be the best deal for everyone concerned, but the truth is that there is a lot of horse trading.’
Talk of a quick in-and-out administration deal, with Whyte securing a sweet settlement for himself as main creditor, is pretty much quashed by Patey – who insists that liquidation remains a real threat.
‘Now, the administrator may rule that only debts which have been crystalised – ie, those on the books right now – should make up the whole package, meaning Whyte definitely makes up 75 per cent,’ said the expert.
Plenty to do: David Grier (right) and Whitehouse leave Ibrox
‘But that would be challenged by HMRC, who will argue that the major tax case should also be considered.
‘If you come out of administration with that big tax bill hanging over you, you face the same major problems – and will face having to go into administration for a second time.
‘So, really, Craig Whyte will want to clear this up once and for all. He has to negotiate with HMRC over the major liability. The Revenue will be tough. There is a point of principle in what Rangers are doing, and HMRC are not for backing down.
‘They’ve had a lot of bad publicity of late, public criticism because large corporates have been let off with unpaid tax.
‘So there is a public feeling that corporates and wealthy individuals should pay the right amount of tax.
‘I don’t think we should discount the possibility of administration failing to reach a CVA – and that would require the club to go down the liquidation route. That is a live possibility.
‘It’s not impossible to reach a CVA but, looking at the case, liquidation is certainly a live issue.’