Celtic's main market move

CELTIC, the Scottish football club, yesterday announced plans to list on the main stock market in a radical overhaul which will see its controversial chairman, Fergus McCann, net more than pounds 30m from the sale of his majority stake.

Mr McCann confirmed plans to step down in spring as chairman and chief executive of the Scottish champions after five years in charge. His departure will follow Celtic's move from the junior Alternative Investment Market to the main index.

Mr McCann said he wanted to sell his 50.1 per cent stake, valued at nearly pounds 32m at yesterday's price, to shareholders and fans rather than to "faceless City institutions". He said: "I will not be selling my stake to a controlling shareholder. The plan is to give it to shareholders and fans." He planned to use the money to pursue business interests outside the UK.

Celtic's financial advisers were yesterday studying the possibility of a rights issue which would give existing shareholders first refusal on Mr McCann's stock. However, analysts believe that existing stakeholders would be unable to buy the entire stake.

Mr McCann has been locked in a battle with Brian Dempsey, a former director of the club, who has repeatedly accused him of disregarding the interests of Celtic's fans. Mr Dempsey, a wealthy property developer, was the head of a group of investors, including Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr, U2 star Bono and Scotland's biggest lottery winner, John McGuinness, which recently tried to wrest control of the club from Mr McCann.

Mr Dempsey told The Independent his group may seek to buy part of the chairman's stake if it is offered on the market after the rights issue.

The club will also implement a 100-for-1 share split to increase liquidity. The shares trade at an unrealistic pounds 220 following yesterday's pounds 5 rise.

Celtic yesterday announced a 38 per cent rise in net profits to pounds 7.1m despite a 14 per cent slide in operating profits due to higher players' salaries.

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<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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