The last 30 days have not been the best for Craig Whyte and Rangers. His team has dropped points, and now no longer sits at the top of the SPL. At the end of November he was forced to admit to the PLUS-SX that he had been disqualified from holding directorships in the UK for seven years in 2000. It was publicised that the SFA were enquiring into his “fit and proper” status to hold a position within a football club. The deadline for lodging audited accounts with Companies House and holding an AGM is about to pass, with the potential that this might bring criminal convictions for Mr Whyte and his fellow Directors.
I thought it might be of interest to look back to sunnier times for him, back to before the eyes of the world (or at least the West of Scotland) were upon him.
Let’s jump in the time machine back to November 19th 2010. Mr Whyte had burst on to the scene as the new prospective buyer of Rangers from Sir David Murray.
The press clamoured for his attention. Who was this man willing to come to the rescue at Ibrox, and why is he doing this?
The Sun had an interesting idea. Their reporter, Andy Devlin, went to ask an expert!
Professor Chris Brady is a “business guru”. He was, in 2010, Dean of the BPP Business School in London. He has enjoyed a diverse working life with a variety of jobs ranging from a line worker at Chryslers in Detroit to a claims clerk in the City of London, from a land surveyor with the Ordnance Survey to a betting shop manager, and from a semi-professional footballer and coach to a naval intelligence officer.
Professor Brady’s areas of expertise are in policy-analysis, the role of teams in organisational structures, corporate coaching, decision-making theory, international organisation and game theory.
As a UEFA ‘A’ Licence coach, Chris still maintains coaching ties within the Football Association and is also a member of the Institute of Personnel Development and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute. Professor Brady is the co-author of the FT/Pearson Publications ‘Rules of the Game’ and ‘The End of the Road’ and recently published the much acclaimed book entitled ‘The 90 Minute Manager’, now in a third edition.
He is a wise man, with great business knowledge and also a thorough grounding in football.
He strikes me as a very good person to ask about Mr Whyte’s apparent plans.
Shall we see what he had to say?
(I have not been able to access the article on the Sun’s website. I suspect the fault is mine, rather than that of News International. However, I was able to access it via Proquest.com, an online newspaper database accessed through my local library. I highly recommend it, and well done to South Lanarkshire Council for signing up to it!)
(The fault was mine – the link is here.)
To set the scene, in November 2010, the speculation was that Mr Whyte was going to pay £32 million to buy Rangers (which included the sum required to settle the Lloyds Bank debt).
As the Sun said:-
“Tycoon and lifelong fan Craig Whyte has been locked in talks with Murray and an agreement is almost in place. The venture capitalist, whose business interests are worth £1 BILLION, could have control of the SPL champs by Christmas.”
Professor Brady raised the question which has, to be frank, baffled many since Mr Whyte came on the scene:-
“The question I’d ask is a simple one: Why would he want to buy Rangers at this moment in time? Does Mr Whyte believe that the market is about to change?
“Would I personally buy Rangers? …I would buy Rangers if I thought that in the next four to five years I would be taking them out of the SPL and into somewhere where the club was going to make money.
“I can’t think of any reason why Whyte would want to buy Rangers other than the fact that perhaps they’re heading for the Premiership or some new European league.” (Emphases added)
Did Mr Whyte have contacts who led him to believe that the Eldorado of the Old Firm entering the SPL was finally looming into view? Surely Sir David Murray and his cohorts did not persuade him that was about to happen?
Professor Brady continued:-
“Of course, he’s a fan so it might just be a toy. But if it was my money I wouldn’t buy Rangers unless I thought they were coming out of the SPL. Perhaps Whyte knows something we don’t. There’s NO way Rangers can make money in Scotland.”
The Sun continued by pointing out that, the previous day, they had revealed that a “£20m January war chest” had been promised to boss Walter Smith. Of course the war chest turned out to be unnecessary, as Rangers won the SPL without spending £20 million in the transfer window. One suspects Ally McCoist would like that rumoured chest to turn up a year later!
Professor Brady had one other theory:-
“Mr Whyte might want a toy to play with, that’s the only other alternative. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If I was a Rangers fan I wouldn’t be bothered by that. If he’s worth £1bn then he’s not going to miss £30m or £40m. If it’s a toy it won’t matter to him if he’s not making money out of it. Perhaps, however, he believes it can make money. Perhaps he believes Murray ran the club badly and that he can do a better job.”
As time has passed, the IF regarding Mr Whyte’s worth has increased as the estimates of his fortune have decreased. It seems unlikely, though not impossible, that it is simply a “toy” for him, although it seems pretty clear by now that Mr Whyte would very much miss £30 or £40 million, if indeed he actually has or had that amount to lose!
The Sun repeated the story of Mr Whyte’s stock market investments from age 15 onwards.
Professor Brady then made an astonishing comment I had not seen before:-
“Essentially, Mr Whyte is a tipster. He’s the Jim Delahunt of corporate finance!
“Mr Whyte owns a private equity company; he is what we term a venture capitalist. He’s got cash and he’s looking to make more. He’s looking for businesses which are under performing.”
“It won’t be his money. He will be the face of a consortium. There will be a group of people involved in a deal like this. He didn’t get where he is today — with business interests worth a billion — by spending his own money. He’ll be looking to spread the bet and that’s why I suspect more people are involved behind the scenes.”
Has the learned Professor come closer than anyone to the reasons behind the move? Did Mr Whyte think that there would be imminent developments regarding the EPL? Bearing in mind how much people were spending to buy “real” EPL clubs, then even the rumoured £32 million for Rangers would have been a snip, if the Premiership and Sky’s riuches beckoned. That idea, although it would appear totally wrong, would in fact fit perfectly with the venture capitalist mindset – as Professor Brady said “He is a tipster” and by the nature of tipsters, some tips win, and others do not. As long as your gains exceed your losses, you are smiling.
What a perceptive man Professor Brady was last November – Whyte “didn’t get where he is today by spending his own money” and “There’s NO way Rangers can make money in Scotland.“
As Rangers face up to a bleak midwinter, with the transfer window perhaps their only chance of raising the funds they need to survive through to the end of the “Big Tax Case” which itself would probably close them down, and with their best players either injured or playing poorly and losing value, and with signs that some of their fans are already turning on their manager and owner, could it be that Professor Brady coined Mr Whyte’s footballing epitaph, those 13 long months ago?