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Rangers' Sale of the Century

Rangers' Ibrox Stadium

By David McDaid

The current financial situation at Rangers continues to generate more questions than answers.

Here BBC Scotland examines the key questions surrounding the Glasgow club's plight, starting with an easy one for the uninitiated.

WHO ARE RANGERS?

The current Scottish Premier League champions, and arguably the most successful club in Scottish football history with 52 league titles, 33 Scottish Cups, 25 League Cups and a European Cup Winners Cup triumph to their name.

Their biggest and oldest rivals are fellow Glasgow club Celtic, and between them they have dominated Scottish football almost uninterrupted for the last 40 years.

They are currently second in the league, just a point behind Celtic, and are competing in the Champions League group stage.

SOUNDS GOOD. SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

It may not seem much compared to the hundreds of millions of pounds of debt wracked up by the top four clubs in England, but Rangers' debt is approaching £30m and their bank Lloyds is keen to stop that figure from escalating.

The situation has come about mainly as a result of excessive spending during the 1990s and early 2000s. During that period Rangers spent big to recruit top English and foreign stars as they equalled Celtic's record of nine successive league championships, and made a concerted effort to succeed on the European stage.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

At the peak of their spending, manager Dick Advocaat shelled out £36m including a club record of £12m on Norwegian striker Tore Andre Flo in 2000.

However, European progress eluded the club and subsequent managers have had much reduced budgets.

Current boss Walter Smith has not bought a new player in almost 18 months and was told he needed to trim his squad last January, since when everybody at the club has been available for sale.

Across the city, old foes Celtic have dramatically reduced their debt, and brought in six new players since last season - including a £3.8m outlay on one player alone.

WHAT ABOUT THE OWNER, CAN'T HE HELP?

Sir David Murray has owned a controlling stake in Rangers for over 20 years, but recently stood down as chairman to concentrate on his other businesses under his Murray International Holdings company.

Rangers owner Sir David Murray
Sir David Murray is seeking a buyer for the Ibrox club

Murray paid £6m to buy the club in 1988 from the previous owner Lawrence Marlborough. Over the past two decades he has ploughed tens of millions of pounds of his own personal fortune into Rangers, including underwriting an additional rights issue to the tune of £40m which was aimed at eliminating the club's debts.

He acknowledges his part in the current plight of the club, as he sanctioned the excessive spending during his time at Ibrox, and is now looking to sell.

But he is insistent that receiving the right price is only part of his selling criteria.

Murray also wants to know that the next owning party will have the interests of the club as their primary motivation for getting involved.

WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THE CLUB NOW?

This is a matter of debate and more than a little confusion. Since Murray's departure Alastair Johnston has taken over as club chairman. However, according to Smith, it's Lloyds who are "effectively running the club". However, the bank deny they are pulling the strings.

Lloyds also say they had absolutely no influence in Murray relinquishing day-to-day control of the club, and that they have seen Rangers' business strategy for the way ahead and are supportive of that.

DOES ANYONE WANT TO STEP IN AND BAIL THE CLUB OUT?

Dave King is the name mentioned in most quarters. He's a Glaswegian and lifelong Rangers fan who emigrated to South Africa in the 1970s. There he made his fortune in the financial sector and was named as the country's richest man in 2006.

Rangers director Dave King
King is the name most associate with a possible takeover

In 2000 he invested £20m in Rangers. In return he was made a non-executive director at the club and given shares. He gifted some of those to his good friend, golfing legend Gary Player, for whom he caddied at the 2008 Masters in Augusta.

However, since 2002, King has been at the centre of South Africa's biggest-ever fraud case. The state have made over 300 charges against the businessman, ranging from tax dodging to extortion and money laundering. Around £119m of his assets were frozen as he faced a claim for £183m in unpaid taxes. King strenuously denies all charges, but the case has yet to go to trial seven years since his initial arrest and charge.

Another name in the mix is Douglas Park, a Hamilton-based businessman who has built a personal fortune estimated at £50m through his coach and motor empire.

HOW MUCH WILL THE CLUB COST AND WHAT DOES THE NEW OWNER GET FOR HIS MONEY?

It's estimated that it would take an offer of around £40m to acquire Murray's controlling stake in Rangers.

The total share value of Rangers Football Club stands at just over £10.8m.

The club have several million pounds worth of assets. Their home ground, Ibrox Stadium, is a 51,000 all-seater arena and is on Uefa's list of 5-star status venues. Murray spent £52m modernising Ibrox in the 1990s.

Then there is Murray Park training complex, which cost £14m by completion in 2001.

Spanning over 38 acres to the north of Glasgow city centre it includes six full-size pitches and a synthetic indoor pitch, a state-of-the-art gymnasium and medical suite.

As well as those property assets some of the current squad players such as Steven Davis, Madjid Bougherra, Pedro Mendes and Allan McGregor would command higher-than-average Scottish transfer fees if sold.

WHAT IF THE CLUB ISN'T SOLD SOON?

The club and the bank have both moved to nip in the bud any talk of impending administration.

But if a new backer is not forthcoming Smith has warned that it could signal a period of stagnation on the field. The manager has already said that he is being hampered in his job of squad development.

However, the team is still challenging at the top of the Scottish Premier League and if they can retain their title there could be some money available to buy players in the summer, with Champions League participation bringing in up to £12m.

Rangers manager Walter Smith
Smith's hands have been tied by the financial situation at the club

There is even doubt over the futures of Smith and his coaching team of Ally McCoist and Kenny McDowell. Their contracts run out in January, and they have as yet to receive any offer of extension.

The manager says he would be prepared to work without a contract until the current situation has been resolved, as any new owning party may have their own ideas about who controls the team. Smith says he would be happy to go if that were the case.

ARE THERE ANY SIGNS OF AN IMPENDING SALE?

As you might expect it's all very hush hush at the moment, with the club only releasing information on a strictly need-to-know basis.

Since Murray has indicated his desire to sell, the club has been officially placed on the Takeover Panel list. This is a London-based watchdog for company takeovers that has the power to force publicity for dealings as a means to protect the interests of smaller shareholders.

That will provide greater transparency as events unfold, but the latest information is vague at best.

A club statement said Murray is considering options that may or may not lead to the disposal of some or all of his stake to a third party.

It adds that any considerations are at a very early stage and may or may not lead to an offer for these shares.



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see also
Clarity required for Rangers sale
27 Oct 09 |  Rangers
Chick Young's view
26 Oct 09 |  Scottish Premier
Smith admits he could leave Ibrox
26 Oct 09 |  Rangers
Johnston reveals Gers objectives
28 Sep 09 |  Rangers
Murray relinquishes Rangers role
26 Aug 09 |  Rangers


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