WEB3dLAW is back with a significantly shorter blog post today. I have been waxing lyrical lately about popular films. One of my favourite of all time is The Hunt for Red October – the film adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel about Cold War era submarine warfare between the Yanks and the Russians. In one of the latter scenes, former US senator Fred Thompson asks the protagonist Dr Ryan, played by Alex Baldwin, “What’s his plan?” To which Dr Ryan retorts, “His plan?” The Captain points out that “a Russian submarine captain doesn’t take a dump without a plan”.
One of my partner’s favourite films is the Richard Gere/Julia Roberts RomCom, Pretty Woman. Do you remember this scene from Pretty Woman when Gere takes Roberts to a dinner meeting with the father and son owners of one of Gere’s takeover targets?
Gere wanted to buy a large family owned ship building business and in what is commonly referred to as a “hostile takeover”, the duo had come along to the meeting to persuade Gere’s character to end his bid for their family business.
I mention these because both films lead into my nice little transition into a discussion about the business concept called “poison pills”, something I mentioned yesterday.
“Poison Pills” and “Shark Repellents” sound like they belong in a James Bond film, but they are actually generic terms for business strategies to repel or reduce the attractiveness of a business to hostile takeovers. I often wonder, “What was Craig Whyte’s plan?” He doesn’t look like a man that takes a dump very often, or without a plan. I have been thinking about this for a long time. Something doesn’t sit right in this whole thing, so I will give this idea a whirl. It is an idea, but would love to hear your input on its feasibility or accuracy. If I have missed anything out, let me know.
A “poison pill” is a generic term used to describe shareholder rights plan, and is a type of defensive tactic used by a corporation’s board of directors against a takeover. Shareholder rights plans, or poison pills, are controversial because they hinder an active market for corporate control. They also devalue the company and benefit the directors. A poison pill also has other meanings:
It is sometimes used more broadly to describe other types of takeover defences that involve the target taking some action. The broad category of takeover defences (more commonly known as “shark repellents”) includes the poison pill.
Other anti-takeover protections include:
- The target business adds to its charter a provision which gives the current shareholders the right to sell their shares to the acquirer at an increased price (usually 100% above recent average share price), if the acquirer’s share of the company reaches a critical limit (usually one third).
- The target takes on large debts in an effort to make the debt load too high to be attractive—the acquirer would eventually have to pay the debts.
Let’s look at the facts.
- CW bought Rangers from Sir David Murray’s company for £18,000,001.00. There was a £1 transaction between the two men. Craig Whyte then paid off Lloyds TSB debt at HBOS by wiring £18,000,000 from Collyer Bristow to an account at Lloyds.
- CW then had Lloyds assign all relevant securities over to him or his company Wavetower, now “Rangers Group FC”. Although it is widely accepted that Craig Whyte used Ticketus money to fund the purchase, what is important to remember is that Craig Whyte and Sir David Murray valued the company at £18Million + £1 or £18,000,001.00.
- Ticketus becomes an unsecured creditor after Rangers enters into administration and is owed £26.7 Million.
- Rangers cannot raise money from season ticket holders for the next few seasons.
- Charles Greene and his “20-man consortium” buy Rangers from CW for the nominal charge of £2. There is no agreed £18M paid into a lawyers account to pay off a debt to HBOS this time. The £8.4M is set aside for the creditors’ pot IF a CVA can be agreed to. If the CVA can’t be agreed to, is there any contractual obligation to put the £8.4M into the club’s coffers? NO.
- A new only comes in and cancels the Ticketus deal altogether. They sue the old owner – Craig Whyte. The Ticketus deal is null and void, and CW only pledges his shares and debenture if a CVA goes through.
- I may be wrong, but I have seen no-one from the MSM ask this question. If the CVA is not agreed, then what happens to the £8.4M held for the creditors? If the answer is nothing, and it doesn’t go into the CVA pot, then it means…
Charles Green bought the club, Ibrox, Murray Park, and the car parks for £2.00. If a CVA cannot be agreed to, and the club has been sold to a 20 man consortium in equal shares that RFC have been bought for 10p each share! Any new owner could come in and buy these shares in a newco company – a debt free football club playing in the SPL with a TV contract with Sky and ESPN. A rights issue WOULD make the original owners a tidy profit on the stock exchange.
I want to be clear this is me hypothesising. However, it is very suspicious to me that a company that was sold a year ago for £18,000,001.00 has been sold again in less than a year for £2.00. It is worth knowing if the Ticketus deal was a double poison pill– not only did it fund the purchase of the club, but it effectively ensured that “the target company takes on large debts in an effort to make the debt load too high to be attractive. It would be so unattractive that no acquirer would want to pay the debts.”
Here is a classic anti-shark repellent move! This strategy also assumes that the club pays their debts in the long-run. However, under today’s company laws, in particular the Enterprise Act, struggling businesses can continue in new forms as government would rather see businesses keeping jobs going at the expense of toxic debt – which keeps far less in employment.
A plan to shed my business debts in a morally ambiguous, but legal way might look like this:
Run up massive debts and get served with massive bill from more creditors including, hopefully HMRC! Be unable to service those debts. Limit the ways the company can gain access to working capital. Then bankrupt your own business by putting it into administration. Make the company unattractive to legitimate parties of interest by taking on massive amounts of debt. Hire the same people who advised you on this strategy to run the company during the administration process. Offer to sell to a buyer (outside of the circle) to make the whole thing seem legitimate, but as soon as he sees the financial picture, he walks and walks away. Make it as unattractive as possible to any other potential buyers by having an element of your customer base threaten any potential buyers, but at the same time pay for the Old Guard (fine gentleman like Sandy Jardine, Andy Kerr and Mark Dingwall) to wax lyrical about how great Rangers is to anyone eager to lap it up.
Forego your debts to the tax man other legitimate creditors and form a “newco”… Get a slap on your wrist from the regulatory organizations. Cancel all of your debts. Buy your partners in consortium out. Return to the glory days of the past.
Smell a rat now?
 Fundamentals of Corporate Finance (6th ed.), Editions McGraw-Hill Ryerson, §23: Mergers and Acquisitions