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Monday, September 20, 1999 Published at 20:18 GMT 21:18 UK

UK: Scotland

McCann sells Celtic shares

Fergus McCann is selling his controlling stake in the club

Former Celtic Football Club chief executive Fergus McCann has put his 51% share in the Scottish Premier League side up for sale.

BBC Scotland's Bob Wylie reports on the massive Celtic share sell-off
The disposal, which has been underwritten by institutions for £40m, will give current shareholders an opportunity to increase shares as well as allowing season ticket holders and staff at the Parkhead club to buy.

The club said the sale of the 14,4000,000 ordinary shares fulfilled Mr McCann's promise to sell his controlling stake to a wide number of investors following his departure from the club in April.

[ image: Fergus McCann: Promised share sell-off]
Fergus McCann: Promised share sell-off
Priority for sale of the shares, which were conditionally valued at 280 pence each, would be given to shareholders and after that season ticket holders in the UK and the Republic of Ireland would have the option to buy.

Current shareholders would be able to buy one new share for every three currently held and the offer could allow the Irish businessman Dermot Desmond to emerge as the largest single shareholder with around 20% of the shares.

The terms of the agreement would also allow the club's football director, Kenny Dalglish, to take a stake and Mr McCann has agreed to gift a potential £1.5m of the profit to help fund a Celtic football academy.

A successful sale would see Mr McCann secure a profit of around £40m on a £9m investment five years ago.

In that time, the club said turnover had risen by 385% to £33.8m and operating profits had risen from £282,000 to £6.7m.

Mr McCann, who faced a series of high profile rows during his tenure, was at the centre of a massive football empire.

Largest capacity

More than £40m was spent on developing Celtic Park into the largest capacity club ground in the UK, with 60,506 seats.

The club said average attendances in the 1998/99 season were 59,224 and season ticket sales reached 53,388.

Speaking at the launch of the share offer, Mr McCann said the club had come a long way since 1994 when it was in financial dire straits.

He said: "I am satisfied with the progress the club has made over the last five years.

"I now look forward to once again being a full-time supporter and hopefully watching the team and club progress to realise its full potential, which I believe is considerable."

But despite Mr McCann's commercial achievements, there was discontent among many supporters when he was in charge over a failure to match the trophies success of Old Firm rivals Rangers.

Mr McCann's tenure was marred by a high profile court battle with former star Lou Macari over his dismissal as manager.

He also came under fierce criticism from rock singer Jim Kerr after he rejected a takeover bid for the club which was led by Mr Kerr and Mr Dalglish.

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