Blue Knights concede defeat in bid to buy Rangers

Paul Murray was last night preparing to conceded defeat in the battle to rescue Rangers – after being turned over by the firm who funded Craig Whyte’s takeover.

London company Ticketus had been expected to partner Murray’s consortium after agreeing to slash a total of £17m off the £27m debt left over from Whyte’s disastrous deal to mortgage off 100,000 future season tickets.

But now, after holding secret negotiations with Asian bidder Bill Ng,  Ticketus are satisfied they can claw back much more of their missing millions should the Singapore-based group win control.

And news of this alliance has led Murray and his Blue Knights to reluctantly walk away from the table rather than hang around and cause further delay to a process which is already threatening to force the club into liquidation.

That leaves Ng in a two-way shootout with American tycoon Bill Miller – who was engaged in a war of words with Whyte last night – for the keys to the front doors of Ibrox.

In a statement last night, Murray insisted the offer he submitted last week will still stand if the new Ng-Ticketus bid should fail to win the approval of administrators Duff and Phelps.

But former director Murray believes he is acting in the best interests of the club by stepping back now and allowing Ng the opportunity to force his deal through.

The statement said: “On the evening of Thursday 12 April The Blue Knights Consortium was asked by Duff & Phelps to reconfirm its “best and final” offer of 4 April. We reconfirmed our position and we believed that we would be awarded preferred bidder status on Friday morning.

“As part of the process of awarding exclusivity Duff & Phelps had requested a non-refundable deposit. During the course of Friday Ticketus informed us that they were not prepared to provide this deposit.

“During the course of the weekend individuals within the consortium offered to put up the deposit subject to a small number of conditions which were broadly agreed with Duff & Phelps.

“During the course of the weekend we were also made aware that Ticketus had been in discussions with the Singaporean consortium who, on Friday, had offered Ticketus a “substantially” better deal to the one offered by us.

Paul Murray large image

“We confirmed that we were not prepared to increase our offer to Ticketus which we believe to be in the Club’s best interests.

“The consortium believes that the whole deal process has become incredibly complex and it is critical that a preferred bidder is appointed this week.

“As a consequence, and in the best interests of the Club, the consortium has decided to take a step back to enable Duff & Phelps, Ticketus and the Singaporeans to conclude a deal as quickly as possible or not.

“We stand ready to complete our offer of 4 April which included a deal in principle with Ticketus. We still believe that a partnership with Ticketus represents the best opportunity of the Club exiting administration via a CVA.

“We firmly believe that ,in the best interests of the Club, the whole process has to move forward as a matter of urgency. We are stepping back to assist with this but we stand ready to re-enter the process if a deal can not be reached.”

Moments after Murray’s statement David Whitehouse, joint administrator, confirmed that the Blue Knights bid had been on the verge of being accepted.

Whitehouse said: “It is disappointing the Blue Knights are withdrawing at this stage, particularly in the view of the fact that last week it was made clear to them and Ticketus that their indicative bid placed them in a strong position.

“We were therefore surprised that their offer to pay an exclusivity fee was withdrawn and although discussions over the exclusivity fee continued over the weekend, no agreement was reached.

“At all stages of the process, The Blue Knights/Ticketus bid has been given the most serious consideration by us as administrators, particularly due to the fact that it was being encouraged by supporters’ groups.

“We are aware that Ticketus has also been, at their own instigation, in parallel discussion with one of the other bidders over the last few weeks and it remains to be seen whether these discussions will be taken forward.

“We can reassure supporters of the Club that we look forward to making an announcement on a preferred bidder later this week, assuming no further hurdles are placed in our path.

“While we as administrators have a statutory duty to look after the interests of creditors and keep the business going, it is of paramount importance that the bid which is taken forward is the best on offer for Rangers Football Club.”

As Murray was retreating from the takeover battle late last night Georgia based millionaire Miller was reacting angrily to the latest ramblings of disgraced owner Whyte – who is stubbornly refusing to hand over the 85.3 per cent stake he bought for £1 from David Murray last May.

Whyte still insists he will have the final say on which bid is accepted – and only after he is weighed in for his shares.

But he says he has had no discussions with Miller.

He said: “I have spoken to two of the bidders, the Singaporean bidders and the Blue Knights. But I have not spoken to Bill Miller and I have no plans to speak to him. He has not made contact with me.

“I am happy to have a conversation with him or anyone who is interested but it is my understanding, through third parties, that they (Miller’s consortium) want liquidation and that is no good for the club. But anyone who is named the preferred bidder will have to talk to me and thrash out a deal.”

But last night Miller released the following retort through Jon Pritchett of Club 9 Sports.

It said: “We understand Mr. Whyte has had some comments directed towards Mr. Miller’s bid that have been distributed to the press. As a response, please find below a quote from Bill Miller:
“Mr. Whyte is correct about at least one thing.  I have not spoken with him and I see no reason to do so.  According to Andy Warhol, everyone gets 15 minutes of fame.  Hasn’t Mr. Whyte already had his?”