FORMER Rangers owner Craig Whyte laughed off suggestions from his own lawyer that he should not proceed with the deal to buy the club, a court has heard.
Gary Withey, 52, previously told Whyte’s trial at the High Court in Glasgow he thought his client was “mad” to go ahead with the purchase.
Whyte paid Sir David Murray’s group £1 for Rangers but also agreed to fund an £18 million bank debt, a £2.8m tax bill, £1.7m for health and safety issues, plus £5m for players and £5m in working capital.
Loading article content
The charges against Whyte allege that he had only £4m available from two sources at the time but financed the deal by taking out a £24m loan from Ticketus against three years of future season ticket sales – an arrangement that Sir David Murray has denied he knew about.
In his evidence under questioning by Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC, Withey, who worked for London tax specialists Collyer Bristow, said he gave the “walk away” advice because he “didn’t like the feel of the transaction”.
Questioned by Prentice as to why he did not like it, Withey replied: “I felt as though there were too many things to be discovered. It was also information was having to be pulled out.”
Prentice asked “What was his response every time you raised this?” to which Withey replied: “He would laugh.”
Withey later added: “I had been involved in football clubs before and I knew under the surface of football clubs it was always fairly nasty. He didn’t have any experience with football clubs.”
He also said he thought his client lacked the skillset to run Rangers. Withey said he was concerned that if the Murray Group had known of the Ticketus funding they might not have gone ahead with the sale.
He gave evidence that the Ticketus arrangement was “not concealed but it wasn’t revealed” on the instructions of Whyte. Asked if Murray knew about Ticketus, Withey replied: “I didn’t tell them, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t know.”
Witness Ross Bryan, formerly of investment firm Octopus Capital that backed Ticketus, said he had met Whyte in October or November 2010 to discuss the possible acquisition of Rangers. Asked by the Advocate Depute what they discussed, Bryan replied: “In very broad terms, Mr Whyte explained that he was from this neck of the woods, a fan of the club and would be interested in making an offer to the owner to see if they would sell.”
Bryan, 38, told the court that after Christmas 2010, when the deal had not closed, the firm was “keen” to make sure Sir David Murray knew it was involved or that a financial institution was involved.
Whyte denies acquiring Rangers by fraud in May 2011 and also denies a second charge under the Companies Act relating to a payment of £18m between Whyte’s Wavetower firm and Rangers to clear a bank debt.
The trial before Lady Stacey continues.