Glasgow & West Scotland

More evidence of Duff and Phelps suspected conflict of interest

David Grier
Image caption Mr Grier has said he was only aware of the Ticketus deal in August

BBC Scotland has decided to publish further evidence about a suspected conflict of interest concerning the administrators of Rangers.

David Grier, a senior partner from administrators Duff and Phelps, had said he was unaware that London finance firm Ticketus funded Craig Whyte's purchase of the club.

But the BBC has seen evidence that Mr Grier attended a dinner to celebrate the acquisition of Rangers alongside a Ticketus executive shortly after Whyte finalised the deal.

Duff and Phelps deny there has been a conflict of interest.

The BBC can also reveal that emails about an invoice arranged by Mr Grier appear to relate directly to a tranche of invoices which were submitted to Ticketus for £24.4m - which had been used to fund the purchase of the club.

A leading insolvency expert has told the BBC that if the allegations of a conflict are proved, Duff and Phelps should resign.

'Information withheld'

The BBC has seen emails which show that a small number of people were invited to a dinner to celebrate completing the acquisition of Rangers, on 16 June 2011 at exclusive London restaurant, Langans.

Nine people attended, including Craig Whyte, his lawyer Gary Withey, Rangers director Phil Betts, David Grier and Ross Bryan, the executive from Ticketus who oversaw the deal with Rangers.

The four other attendees were the lawyers, accountants and financial advisors who helped put the deal together.

Mr Grier has told the BBC that he was kept in the dark about the full extent of the Ticketus deal and that "material information was withheld to us".

The BBC understands that each of the eight other people attending the Langans event that night were fully aware of the details of the financing of the purchase.

The BBC put it to Mr Grier's PR team on Friday that it "stretched credibility" that he was the only person invited to the celebration that night who did not know about the Ticketus deal.

In a statement Mr Grier said: "I attended the function you refer to in the full knowledge that the club had an ongoing and existing relationship with Ticketus.

"This was a dinner organised by Craig Whyte and I did not know what others in attendance knew or didn't know. As stated…the matter is now in the hands of our solicitors."

Ticketus transaction

Mr Whyte completed the takeover of Rangers on 6 May 2011, but came under serious criticism after it was revealed he had used Ticketus to fund the purchase of the club by selling off most of the next three years' worth of season tickets.

The Ticketus deal, if it stood, would make Rangers a much less attractive proposition to any potential buyer, since more than half of the club's income stream for the next three years would be paid out.

Image caption Craig Whyte purchased Rangers from Sir David Murray for £1

In a BBC Scotland documentary broadcast on Wednesday - Rangers: The Men Who Sold the Jerseys - it was revealed that emails were sent to Mr Grier concerning the Ticketus transaction in April 2011 - two weeks before the deal completed.

Mr Grier has denied knowing that Ticketus were funding the purchase, and his PR team has claimed he was only aware of a much smaller arrangement of around £5m with the finance firm to fund a working capital shortfall.

The BBC has not been shown any evidence that a smaller Ticketus transaction for working capital existed.

In this email dated 24 June 2011, Mr Grier agrees to arrange an invoice for Ticketus, and backdate it until 9 May.

The BBC has evidence that three invoices were raised to Ticketus dated 9 May.

Each related to one seasons' ticket sales for 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14. The combined total for all three was £24.4m.

The Ticketus funds had by this time already been used to pay the club's £18m bank debt, which had been a condition of the sale.

Mr Grier has denied knowing that Ticketus money was used in the purchase, and maintains his knowledge of Ticketus only went as far as some short term working capital funding.

In a statement, Mr Grier said: "My position is clear in that I did not have information on the nature of the Ticketus proposal prior to the takeover.

"The matters that are now referred to are post transaction and we (MCR) took steps to understand and raise concerns once we had full visibility on what had taken place.

'False allegations'

"At all times we have acted correctly and firmly on matters of financial propriety and kept HMRC appraised of all developments.

"The BBC is ignoring the fundamental point that my knowledge prior to takeover was that Craig Whyte's legal advisers provided assurances that their client had £30m to be used for the purchase of the club and access to additional funds to invest for the future and meet potential liabilities.

"Saffery Champness conducted the financial due diligence - we did not have access to the data room or cash flow models as that was not our role.

"The false allegations made by the BBC in recent days are now in the hands of our solicitors."