Craig Whyte: 'Duff and Phelps knew about Ticketus deal'

Former Rangers owner Craig Whyte has spoken exclusively to BBC Scotland

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Rangers administrators Duff and Phelps knew Craig Whyte had sold season tickets to buy the club, the former owner has told the BBC.

Mr Whyte bought the club from Sir David Murray for £1 and gave an undertaking to settle its £18m Lloyds Bank debt.

It later emerged he paid the debt by selling three years of season tickets to finance firm Ticketus for £25m.

Duff and Phelps said Whyte's claim that they knew of the deal was "false, malicious and without foundation".

As well as being involved in Craig Whyte's takeover, Duff and Phelps were appointed as Rangers' administrators after the club plunged into insolvency in February.

In May, a BBC Scotland investigation suggested that a senior Duff and Phelps partner, David Grier, may have known that a deal to sell three years of season tickets was under way last April, before Craig Whyte's takeover.

David Grier denied the claims and said he was unaware of this particular Ticketus deal until August 2011.

Start Quote

The allegations against the administrators, who are officers of the court, are false, malicious and without foundation”

End Quote Paul Clark Duff and Phelps

But in an interview with the BBC's Chris McLaughlin, Whyte said: "Everybody who was involved in the deal team at the time knew about it.

"They (Duff and Phelps) knew everything, they attended meetings, they were copied into all the emails, they were there on the day of completion. They knew from the start."

In response, Rangers' joint administrator Paul Clark, of Duff and Phelps, said: "The allegations against the administrators, who are officers of the court, are false, malicious and without foundation.

"They should not be given any credibility given the source. It should be remembered that Mr Whyte's takeover of Rangers is now the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation and we have provided evidence to that inquiry.

"In addition, as administrators, we instigated legal proceedings against Mr Whyte's solicitors in the High Court in London and those proceedings are centred round the very serious allegation that Mr Whyte was involved in a conspiracy which deprived Rangers of many millions of pounds.

"Our conduct of the Rangers administration has been the subject of intense public scrutiny and we are wholly satisfied it was carried out to the highest professional standards.

"We have co-operated fully with inquiries into our appointment by Lord Hodge at the Court of Session and the Insolvency Practitioners' Association."

'Clearly documented'

In the interview, Whyte also claimed the fact that he was not using his own money to fund his purchase of Rangers had been laid out in sale documents.

"It was certainly mentioned in the sale agreement that season ticket funding may well be used," said the Motherwell-born businessman.

"There was also mention of third party funds. So, it wasn't me somehow pretending that I used my own money when I wasn't. It was clearly documented.

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With the benefit of hindsight, what I should have done when I first bought the club was be more open about the funding”

End Quote Craig Whyte

"All the advisors on my side of the table knew about it, the takeover panel knew about it. It was not a secret. The only people who were perhaps misled were the media and the fans, which is regrettable with hindsight."

In January, when a newspaper reported that future season tickets had been sold to Ticketus, Whyte said: "In the most lurid terms the Daily Record accuses the club's management and specifically me of using supporters' money to help fund the buyout of Rangers. Not true."

But the 41-year-old denied lying to fans about how his takeover was funded.

He said: "I think I was asked a specific question: 'Did you mortgage the season tickets'. I said no because they weren't mortgaged.

"To be fair, with the benefit of hindsight, what I should have done when I first bought the club was be more open about the funding.

"I didn't lie but perhaps I misled people about that and it was a mistake with hindsight."

'Murray unaware'

However, Whyte defended the principle of using ticket money as a funding vehicle to buy the club.

"There's no difference between a bank overdraft or a bank loan to fund the club and using a funding method like Ticketus," he said.

"If you use the bank's money, you use other people's cash.

"Keep in mind that I also personally underwrote the Ticketus transaction, so it wasn't as if I went into this deal with no risk."

He said the previous Rangers owner, Sir David Murray, was not aware of the Ticketus deal.

"Ticketus had already dealt with the club for two or three years before I got involved," he said.

"Although his company recommended that we use Ticketus, he wasn't aware of the full funding arrangements, as you wouldn't expect him to be."

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