David Whitehouse was appointed joint administrator at Ibrox in 2012… he recalls the doomed fight to save the club and the baseless charges of fraud
- David Whitehouse has reflected on his time as joint administrator of Rangers
- He denied the flimsy charges of fraud and financial irregularities at Rangers
- Whitehouse says that he regrets the day that he agreed to become administrator
- He states that it was a ‘very sad’ list of potential buyers for a historic club
Incarcerated for six days in an airless prison cell, denied a call to his family, David Whitehouse had time to reflect on the accusations he faced.
He denied the flimsy charges of fraud and financial irregularities in the course of his duties as the joint administrator of Rangers, but found it trickier to refute the underlying issue which landed him there in the first place.
‘The biggest single factor in what happened back then was a vitriolic approach towards anyone who was not perceived to be a Rangers man,’ he tells Sportsmail. ‘The situation was toxic, my treatment was barbaric.’
David Whitehouse (L) has reflected on the ‘barbaric’ treatment he received when in prison for baseless charges of fraud
To illustrate the depths of the antagonism he faced, he resorts to toilet humour drawn from his time in prison.
‘I needed some loo paper and this guy turns up with one sheet of paper. I said: “What am I supposed to do with that”?
The charges against Whitehouse, his joint administrator colleague Paul Clark, former Rangers owner Craig Whyte and ex-chief executive Charles Green delivered no criminal convictions.
Whitehouse received £10.5million from the Crown for his malicious prosecution in the hope the whole business would go away. Currently plotting legal action against those he holds responsible, he shows no sign of going quietly
‘I am pretty sure when I received a settlement from the Crown that they thought I would go away. But I am absolutely determined to put right a serious wrong.
‘I have had a proper public apology via the statement the Lord Advocate James Wolffe made to the Scottish parliament. But what I have not had is accountability.
‘He talks about his accountability to parliament and he’s talking about the pounds, shillings and pence paid out by taxpayers. That doesn’t equate to putting the Crown’s house in order.’
Whitehouse dismissed suggestions that he and Paul Clark were acting in cahoots with Craig Whyte (pictured)
Enraged by the notion of angry football supporters in positions of power within Scotland’s criminal justice system settling scores then leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill, the father-of-three remains incredulous at the turn of events which placed him in the dock.
‘You should go and look at some of the charges. Some of them were incredible,’ adds Whitehouse.
‘We were charged with serious organised crime, we were charged with conspiracy, we were charged with shadow directorships.
‘It was a complete work of fantasy because, in effect, the police investigating us were Rangers fans.
‘I remember right at the start we were asked to host a meeting in relation to policing ahead of an Old Firm derby.
‘Those games cost a fortune to police and we didn’t have the money to pay for it.
‘We said: “Right, we’ll cancel the game” and they said: “No, no you can’t cancel the game”.
‘So we organised a meeting to discuss the logistics of who was going to pay for the policing and about 15 policemen turned up.
‘All they really wanted to do was talk about Ally McCoist.
‘It felt like they weren’t really there to do the job; they just wanted to have their moment inside Ibrox.’
Rangers plunged into administration in February 2012, the plight of one of Scotland’s oldest footballing institutions leading to some irrational behaviour.
A senior administrator with Duff and Phelps, Whitehouse always knew that the job of salvaging an iconic club would come with unique challenges.
Whitehouse stressed that it was very difficult to negotiate with the playing squad over pay cuts
Overcoming a public suspicion that both he and Clark were acting in cahoots with Craig Whyte, the owner who failed to meet the club’s financial obligations to HMRC, was only the first hurdle.
‘That was completely false,’ he insists. ‘Everything said in that regard has been shown to be untrue.
‘The Blue Knights, one of the groups bidding for the club, wanted to drive this agenda as them being the saviours of the club. The trouble with that was they had no money. Sorry, let me correct that. I can’t say they didn’t have any money, they simply weren’t prepared to put enough of it on the table.
‘There was this big public circus where they asked: “Why are Duff and Phelps not selling it to us”?
‘But we were professional people honouring confidentiality agreements.’
The first priority was to agree a package of wage cuts with highly-paid players to get the club to the end of season 2011-12 and buy time to find a new buyer. A ten-point penalty was the punishment for an insolvency event, with younger players asked to cut their pay by 25 per cent. High earners accepted significantly more.
‘The playing squad you could split down the middle,’ Whitehouse recalls.
‘Some were really good, decent people. Others didn’t really give a s***.
‘They were hard to negotiate with and what we were negotiating — in some cases 75-per-cent pay cuts — was hard as well.
Walter Smith’s consortium, backed by the fans, were among those interested in buying the club
‘I remember one of the senior players and all he wanted was to go and play in the English Premier League.
‘It was: “I’ll do what you want so long as I get a free at the end of the year”.’
In recent years, Whitehouse has been ‘consumed’ by the aftermath of his maliciously-pursued prosecution. Rangers have taken up his life for much of the last decade and he has begun setting down his experiences in a book certain to make uncomfortable reading for some.
How much focus he’ll place on a court order to Duff and Phelps to pay £3.4m to liquidators BDO after judge Lord Tyre found that their efforts to save Rangers fell below an ‘ordinarily competent’ standard remains to be seen.
Despite the wage-cut agreements saving £4m, Whitehouse and Clark were accused of failing to do enough to save the club by selling first-team players or Ibrox.
‘That’s what the BDO claim was. They basically said we should have shut it down and that we could have sold Ibrox independently from the other assets and sold the playing squad in the course of the administration.
‘Well, could you? The idea that it would be a sensible strategy to sell Ibrox to a third party shows how little some of the people involved know about football.
‘We made a judgment call. In my judgment, selling the key players would have made Rangers completely unsellable.’
Whitehouse described the list of potential purchasers for Rangers as ‘very sad’
Insisting their only hope of selling the club was to make it as attractive as possible to a mixed bag of potential buyers, the results were pretty underwhelming.
‘Look at it and it was a very sad list of purchasers for such a high-profile football club,’ he says.
‘Bill Miller was absolutely perfect. A pedigree bidder.
‘You had the Blue Knights, who didn’t have any money.
‘You had Bill Ng, who finished up running into problems in Singapore.
‘You had Walter Smith’s consortium, backed by the fans — with no need for the Blue Knights — who we were desperate to sell it to for £5m and who HMRC wanted to sell it to.
‘Charles Green came out of the woodwork very late in the day. And he was put on ice for a week to try and make the Walter Smith deal happen.
‘People thought Jim McColl was backing it (the Walter Smith deal), but that was all fiction.
‘He (McColl) first contacted us half an hour after a creditor’s meeting (in June 2012), rejected the CVA and Paul Clark took the call.
‘Paul asked him: “Why on earth are you ringing me now when we were appointed three months ago”?
‘He said: “Oh I’m sorry about that, I’ve been busy”.
‘What he offered was £500k more than Charles Green had offered. But, to my mind, it was done tactically too late so that they could go to the media and say: “We made an offer to buy Rangers”.
‘My feeling was that it was designed to undermine Charles Green because he wasn’t “a Rangers man”.’
According to Whitehouse, Charles Green (R) was one of the few people during the process who did what he said he was going to do
Green’s emergence as an improbable Rangers’ saviour was confirmed at a hastily-arranged press call at the club training ground on a Sunday morning in May 2012.
A blunt Yorkshireman — ‘I’ve got big hands. God gave them to me so I can grab a lot of money’ — Green said he would never leave Ibrox until he heard the Champions League theme tune ring out. Like most of his claims — including a non-existent tie-up with the Dallas Cowboys — it proved a tissue of nonsense.
‘So much has been said about Charles Green,’ says Whitehouse. ‘The only thing I would say about him is that he was one of the very few people during that process who actually did what he said he was going to do. He never made a promise to us that he reneged on.
‘I think he had b**** of steel in the manner he set about winning over the fans.
‘He went through a rollercoaster. Initially, there was this immense hostility towards him and then he became the darling of the fans before it ended in hostility again.’
Like Whitehouse, Green was eventually paid millions of pounds of compensation for his malicious prosecution at the hands of the Crown. With public money swilling around, it should surprise no one that Craig Whyte — the man who set the whole saga in motion — should also be pursuing the legal authorities for compensation after his own acquittal on fraud charges in 2017.
‘If you put to one side personal likes or dislikes of the individuals, Craig Whyte was an opportunistic buyer of a club that nobody else wanted to buy,’ Whitehouse observes.
‘PWC had been engaged by the Murray Group since 2008 in the search for a buyer and nobody wanted to buy it.
‘So what did Craig Whyte do? He bought a club, because he had an opportunity to do so, without putting any money into it.
‘Well, that isn’t a crime. He did mislead people along the way and that was at the heart of the eventual criminal complaint we made against him.
‘We started the criminal investigation. And what we actually reported was the undertaking made by his lawyer Gary Withey — who has since passed away — that he had £20m in his client account when he didn’t. It was a lie.’
The wheel turned full circle when, as part of the investigation into the collapse of Rangers, Whitehouse and Clark were asked to assist the police with their inquiries in a very different sense
Asked if he regrets the day he accepted the call to drive to the south side of Glasgow for the first time, he stifles a laugh.
‘Oh, I 100 per cent regret it. I regret it for a whole range of reasons., he says. ‘I don’t regret the day I ever heard the name of Rangers Football Club. I do regret the day I ever agreed to become administrator.
‘Woe betide Rangers if they ever get into financial trouble again.
‘I sincerely hope that never ever happens, of course.
‘But I don’t think there will be a long list of insolvency practitioners desperate to help out…’
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