Craig Whyte has today been found not guilty of two charges relating to his 2011 takeover of Rangers.
It has taken a jury less than two hours to find the former Rangers owner not guilty after a trial lasting six weeks at Glasgow’s High Court. Whyte had bought Rangers for £1 from Sir David Murray (SDM) in a deal which saw Whyte pay off £18m of debt to Rangers’ bankers Lloyds. As well as settling the £18m bank debt and providing money for players, Whyte had agreed to providing £2.8m to settle a "small tax case" bill, £1.7m for stadium repairs, and £5m in working capital.
46-year-old Whyte first appeared in late 2010 as speculation grew linking him with a takeover of the club but it was May 2011 before a deal was finally agreed with SDM and Whyte’s Wavetower firm.
Unbeknownst to almost all involved, this had been funded through Whyte mortgaging off several years of future ticket revenue to Ticketus for £24m.
Over the summer of 2011, newly-appointed manager Ally McCoist would see his attempts to secure top transfer targets like David Goodwille and Roland Juhasz fall through as Whyte refused to meet their financial demands while giving out inflated new contracts to existing players such as Steven Whittaker and Allan McGregor. As the transfer window neared closing Rangers would strengthen their squad as Mervan Celik, Dorin Goian, Juan Ortiz, Lee Wallace, Ale Bedoya, Carlos Bocanegra and Matt McKay would all arrive in G51 to wildly varying degrees of success.
Just a few months into Whyte’s tenure as chairman allegations emerged that Whyte had failed to disclose a previous ban which prevented him from being a company director for seven years. These would be closely followed by news Whyte had sold the shares in Arsenal which had been held by Rangers for over 100 years after, somewhat ironically, helping the London club out when they had financial difficulties of their own.
By February 2012, papers were lodged at the court of session indicating the directors would be placing the club in administration after failing to pay £9m of PAYE and VAT since Whyte’s takeover nine months earlier.
Then all hell broke loose.
A parade of prospective white knights (and some blue ones) made their way along Edmiston Drive in the hopes of saving Rangers before the company went into liquidation. There were proposals for pre-pack newcos, incubator companies and a CVA amongst others but none were able to get over the line, thanks to HMRC, before the company entered liquidation in June 2012.; in the meantime the football team had suffered, as a result of administration, a 10 point penalty in the league and a three-year ban from European football for failing to submit accounts,
When the company went into liquidation it meant a newco would have to be formed for the purpose of operating the football club. Charles Green had taken up the reigns after purchasing the assets and forming Sevco (Scotland), not to be confused with Sevco 5088, with the club being demoted to the bottom tier of the Scottish football pyramid.
Whyte would continue to insist he was the rightful owner of the club, releasing secretly-recorded conversations, leaking emails and making a host of public claims that he remained involved behind the scenes with Green’s consortium.
Within two weeks of the liquidation process starting, the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) would instruct Stratchclyde Police to investigate Whyte’s takeover and subsequent financial mismanagement.
Come back for part two tomorrow when we look at the investigation into Whyte’s takeover by Stratchclyde Police/Police Scotland.