18 January 1971 |
Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, UK
Whyte first entered business in a plant hire company, after which he moved into security, manufacturing and property. He bought the controlling interest in Rangers Football Club from its then majority shareholder Sir David Murray in May 2011, and subsequently put the club into administration in February 2012.
When he was 15, Whyte took an interest in financial markets, and made more than £20,000 buying and selling shares before he left school. His first job was with his father's plant hire firm, and in 1990 he set up his own plant-hire company. The company, Whyte Hire, was not a success and went bankrupt in the early 1990s with debts of around £300,000. Whyte recovered from this loss and branched out into security, manufacturing and property. In 1997, aged 26, he was Scotland's youngest self-made millionaire. After selling off most of his businesses, he moved to Monaco. When he moved back to the UK (to London), he became a venture capitalist. The London-based group he heads, Liberty Capital, specialises in buying distressed businesses, turning them around, and selling them on.
Whyte was a lifelong supporter of Rangers Football Club and held an executive box at Ibrox Stadium. Speculation arose in 2010 that he might launch a bid to buy the indebted Scottish football club. In April 2011, a £28 million deal was thought possible, but this was dependent on agreement with Lloyds Banking Group on how the club's debt would be service and a tax assessment of, potentially, £49 million from HM Revenue and Customs. In May 2011 Whyte said he was confident that the club would win the tax tribunal case and there would be no liability for Rangers to pay.
Sir David Murray sold his controlling interest in Rangers (85.3%) to Wavetower Limited for £1 on 6 May 2011, with Rangers' debt to the Lloyds Banking Group being reassigned to Wavetower. Wavetower Limited (subsequently renamed The Rangers FC Group Limited) is owned by Liberty Capital, which is Whyte's holding company. The then Rangers manager Walter Smith was reported as welcoming the takeover for the stability it would bring to the club. Whyte said he was proud to be the owner of Rangers and pledged to invest £25 million into transfers, over five years. Regarding the takeover, Whyte was quoted as saying, "Obviously I'm a massive Rangers fan and have been since I was a boy. I'm here first and foremost because I'm a Rangers supporter. I also see a great opportunity and think that Rangers can be a great worldwide brand. I believe there are many commercial activities that can be expanded on."
A BBC Scotland documentary Rangers: The Inside Story, aired in October 2011, claimed that Whyte had illegally been a de facto Director of a company called Re-Tex during a seven-year period when he was banned from doing so – a claim supported by Robert Burns, the Inspector of Companies at the Insolvency Service, who retired in October 2012. Prior to Re-Tex being wound up in 2003, the company made an offer to sell shares to potential shareholders at a price based on company statements that BBC alleged contained "false and misleading" information, formed from accounts signed-off by fake auditors appointed by Whyte. The auditors were allegedly run by a convicted fraudster – and former associate of Whyte's – Kevin Sykes. Whyte's ban from being a Director followed the failure of one of his companies – Vital Holdings Ltd – to produce satisfactory accounts. The investigation also alleged that Whyte had taken part in a number of additional criminal acts, including the receipt of £100,000 from the Re-Tex account, ostensibly to pay a tax bill – a payment that was never received by the Inland Revenue. In his response to these claims, Craig Whyte denied all allegations of criminality, and stated that he had only ever been a minor shareholder in Re-Tex, rather than a de facto Director.
Rangers FC withdrew all cooperation with the BBC following what the club referred to as "repeated difficulties", describing a BBC documentary investigating Whyte's previous business affairs as a "prejudiced muckraking exercise". Immediately after the investigative programme aired, a spokesman stated that Whyte had instructed his lawyers to "commence immediate legal proceedings against the BBC". However on 30 November 2011, Rangers confirmed in a statement to the PLUS stock exchange that Whyte had been banned from acting as a Director. Whyte began defamation proceedings against the BBC and Burns in February 2012. A subsequent investigation by the Scottish Football Association determined that Whyte was not a fit and proper person to run a football club.
On 13 February 2012, Rangers filed legal papers at the Court of Session giving notice of its intention to appoint Administrators. Rangers officially entered administration on the following day, appointing London-based financial advisers Duff & Phelps as administrators. This move was forced by Rangers' failure to make £9 million in PAYE and VAT payments since Whyte took control. It was discovered that Whyte had financed his takeover of the club by mortgaging future revenues, rather than by investing any personal funds or other funds to which he had access. Whyte sold his controlling interest in Rangers for £2 to a consortium led by Charles Green on 13 May 2012, following what had, in effect, become an auction process among various consortia for ownership of the club, overseen by Duff and Phelps in that company's role as Administrator. Green offered creditors a settlement in an attempt to exit administration, but this was rejected by the biggest creditor, HMRC on 14 June 2012, ensuring liquidation. Green was then able to buy out the business and associated assets of Rangers from the Administrator.
Whyte owned the historic Castle Grant, near Grantown-on-Spey, in the Scottish Highlands. Whyte has spent £5 million on restorations and renovations to the castle. Following a court case in February 2012, Whyte was ordered to pay a disputed bill to a roofing contractor who had carried out repairs to the property.
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