Rangers owner Craig Whyte considering gifting shares to supporters


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The Independent Football

Rangers owner Craig Whyte has vowed to step down as chairman once the club emerges from administration.

The Scottish champions were forced to call in the administrators last Tuesday over an unpaid tax bill of £9million accrued since Whyte's takeover of Sir David Murray's majority shareholding last May.

Rangers are also awaiting the outcome of the first tier tax tribunal - the so-called 'big tax case' - relating to Employee Benefit Trusts payments made during Murray's regime, which was initially believed could result in a bill of £49million, although Whyte has claimed the amount could be as much as £75million.

As well as stepping down as chairman, Whyte has also indicated he will consider the possibility of "gifting" the majority of his shares to supporters.

Speaking in a statement yesterday, he said: "I will not continue as Rangers chairman post-restructuring.

"Regardless of administration and irrespective of the tax case, the club had serious long-term structural problems financially and they needed to be addressed with some urgency.

"I knew that when I stepped up to the plate and, despite the accusations and abuse that I have suffered over weeks and months, I was determined to see things through.

"I will admit there have been times when I have wished that I had never entertained the idea of taking over Rangers.

"But I am a Rangers fan, and, like other Rangers fans, I don't do walking away."

He added: "If I can succeed in coming through this administration process I am very keen on the idea of gifting the majority of my shares to a supporters' foundation.

"It makes a lot of sense, but fan ownership would work only after the current process is completed because the club has to get into a position where it is running at break-even in order for that prospect to be viable.

"I am open to all serious offers of outside investment. Indeed, I am currently in active discussion with a number of potential bidders and investors."

Administrators Duff and Phelps confirmed yesterday that money from the Ticketus deal was used by Whyte to complete his takeover of the club.

The firm paid £24million to secure the right to sell future season tickets.

According to the administrators, the cash was used by Whyte to pay the club's £18million debt to Lloyds Banking Group when he completed his takeover.

David Whitehouse, joint administrator, said in a statement: "Following information received, it is now apparent that the proceeds from the Ticketus arrangements amounted initially to a sum in the region of £20million plus VAT.

"Subsequently, £18million was transferred to the Lloyds Banking Group.

"The application of the remainder of these proceeds is subject to further examination.

"We are now investigating all the circumstances surrounding both the purchase of the majority shareholding in Rangers Football Club plc and the flow of funds which stemmed from the transaction and were intended to fulfil the purchasers' obligations at the time of the sale."

Whyte said of the Ticketus deal: "The arrangement with Ticketus - which was a three-season deal not four, as has been reported - was originally to provide additional working capital as had been the case previously under the old board.

"My corporate advisors came to me with the proposition that it was entirely possible, as well as highly beneficial, to negotiate a deal with Ticketus that would allow us to complete the takeover and maximise working capital for the club's day-to-day business.

"The Ticketus deal was by far the best way to protect the club given the circumstances in that they have no security over any assets.

"The only person at risk from the deal is me personally because I gave Ticketus personal and corporate guarantees underwriting their investment; the club and the fans are fully protected.

"In terms of exposure, I am personally on the line for £27.5million in guarantees and cash."

However, in an open letter on the Rangers official website on January 31, Whyte gave an account of his takeover which was widely interpreted as an assurance Ticketus funds were not in any way used.

He said at the time: "I can categorically assure supporters that when I launched a takeover bid for the club it was funded entirely from one of my companies and that was demonstrated clearly to the satisfaction of the previous owner, Lloyds Banking Group and professional advisers."

McKay joined Rangers from Brisbane Roar in August for a fee after captaining his former side to the A-League title.

However, the Australia midfielder, who had been voted his country's player of the year, made only three first-team appearances for Rangers.

The 29-year-old had a brief spell in South Korea in 2006 when he joined Incheon United on loan during the Australian close season.

Administrators have not announced any job cuts at Rangers since being appointed on Valentine's Day and have said redundancies are not inevitable, according to manager Ally McCoist.

The administrators have so far focused on probing recent financial dealings around the club, yesterday confirming that owner Craig Whyte had paid off an £18million debt to Lloyds Banking Group with money raised from future season ticket sales.