Craig Whyte’s name was chanted by the Celtic supporters during our last ever match against Rangers back in April 2012. But one man certainly wasn’t singing along. He had a piece of paper from the sheriff court saying that Whyte’s company Tixway UK Limited, owed him £135,000. This was money that Robert Jenkins would never receive. CQN Magazine met up with Robert back in the summer of 2012 to talk about what happened.
Robert Jenkins was perhaps the first guy in Scotland to suss out Craig Whyte. With the mainstream media, lead by Rangers cheerleaders The Daily Record, talking about Whyte being a billionaire’ with ‘wealth off the radar’ it is perhaps not surprising that most people – including almost the entire Rangers support, were taken in by the myth that Whyte was so wealthy. Not everyone was fooled. Had Robert or any of the other creditors directly or indirectly involved with Whyte and his businesses, read www.celticquicknews.co.uk at the time they would have noticed that rather than being referred to a Billionaire, Whyte was being called a Thousandaire on this blog.
Robert Jenkins’ roofing business had an issue with a client, Snowcast Limited, who was unable to get credit insurance on roofing supplies needed to fulfil a large contract with Glasgow Housing Association. Snowcast thought that he found a solution and introduced Robert to an allegedly wealthy individual who could provide the comfort to allow the deals to continue by sorting out the credit insurance on the job.
Thus Robert was introduced to Craig Whyte by Snowcast. Whyte had a non-trading business, Tixway UK Ltd that had money in the bank, had assets on paper of over £500k and was able to achieve insurance cover on the deal of £75k. So the deal was structured so that Robert supplied Tixway UK Ltd who in turn supplied Snowcast and in this way the roofing contracts proceeded.
Of course, we all know what happened next. Craig Whtye started to stretch payments on his part of the deal. He was also extracting a high price from Snowcast. Eventually Robert had to take Tixway to court and you may remember the television coverage of Whyte, by this time the owner of Rangers FC, walking up the steps to give evidence at Glasgow Sheriff Court. Here was the owner of Rangers FC, going to be grilled in a courtroom, for an unpaid debt of around £93,000.
Whyte came in for some rough treatment in court. He was found to be an unreliable witness and Sheriff Ross in his judgement was scathing of Whyte as a witness. He was not believed and his company was instructed to pay Robert what by now with costs and expenses, amounted to a total of around £135,000.
With his courtroom victory all that Robert Jenkins wanted was to get his money and move on with his life. He remained extremely angry at the behaviour of Whyte. He was elated at winning the case and genuinely thought that he would then receive his money as a result of the court finding in his favour. He was wrong. He had an option to haul Whyte to the Court of Session to strip away the limited liability protection that company law provides to directors. That Court could remove this if serious wrongdoing can be established. While this option did seem attractive, it would have cost Robert a further £20,000 per day and for what?
Tixway UK Limited is long gone. Whyte left Santander Bank with a debt of £234 in an overdrawn bank account. The assets, if they ever really existed were long gone. Whyte had apparently spent over £300,000 from this business through a company credit card, shopping on Amazon and in Majestic Wine among other places. He was funding his lifestyle through this business account and when instructed to pay for the roofing supplies by the court decree, he simply shut the business down. This credit card may be the very same one that was allegedly declined at the Rogano the night before Rangers beat Celtic 4-2 at Ibrox in early September 2011. Apparently Whyte put this down to poor mobile reception for the card reader and his rather annoyed guest was apparently left to pay for the meal. The growing uneasiness in Rangers’ circles at this time was tempered by this victory against Celtic. It turned out to be the club’s last ever victory over their biggest rivals.
It was also just up the stairs from the Rogano at around this time, when Radio Clyde had their party after a charity function. Among the guests that evening was Rangers owner Craig Whyte – and in his company none other than Sports Direct owner, Mike Ashley. It is a small world.
We met Robert for a coffee and a chat at Arcafe in Glasgow’s West End. Ironically enough this is a regular haunt of the Rangers management staff. Over the past few years you would regularly see Walter Smith, Ally McCoist and Iain Durrant in this restaurant at lunchtime. Hugh Dallas was a regular too. None of these Rangers men were present on that day however as we discussed Whyte’s role and how he became the owner of Rangers.
“From what I understand,” Robert explained, “David Murray had little choice but to sell.” Without using direct quotes here, Lloyds basically told him to sell to Whyte immediately because they needed their £18m paid back. If he didn’t agree his whole business empire could have suffered from the consequences.
However at no stage did Robert believe that Whyte was in the super –rich bracket. He reckoned he had money, comforted by Tixway achieving £75k insurance cover, but nothing like enough to be regarded as a Billionaire.
“We did our own checks on Whyte and quickly got a fairly accurate idea of his wealth. How the Scottish media failed to find out any of this information and were actually calling him a billionaire, I can’t explain. They couldn’t have looked, they just printed what they were told.”
Not for the first time, Craig Whyte’s dress sense was mentioned. A friend, who is real blue nose and a senior bank manager at Bank of Scotland (ie Lloyds), mentioned this just after the bells on New Year’s Day (2012). He had always suffered from the Rangers blind spot, of loyalty to whatever Rangers were up to. Murray could do no wrong, anyone criticising Rangers (for instance Spiers) would be vilified and most of all, it would always go back to a Peter Lawwell inspired Celtic agenda against them.
Anyway, during this conversation, some six or seven weeks before Whyte called in the Administrators, he was very despondent about Rangers in general and Whyte in particular. He had reason to have contacts with the old board and knew both Alistair Johnston and John Greig well. He said that they had told him that during the negotiations to buy the club from Murray, Whyte would always turn up to meetings wearing the same paid of scruffy brown brogues. Never polished. Never clean. They would make a point of checking this and saw this as a warning sign that they weren’t dealing with a bone fide wealthy businessman able to take the club forward. (This was in the days before the Holding Company emerged from the Blue Room cupboard).
So I smiled when Robert recalled that “Whyte always wore these dirty brown brogues. He was always a scruffy wee tramp! He came into my boardroom looking like something the cat had dragged in. He just didn’t seem to be on top of things.”
I wondered what backlash, if any he encountered, as a result of taking Rangers to court. “Whyte tried to make out we were suing him due to a pro-Celtic and anti –Rangers agenda. I went to Chryston High School and am Church of Scotland. My wife is a Roman Catholic. I don’t really get too excited about football. My business partner, Paul Martin, knows more about football than me. He is after all an Albion Rovers legend! I think Whyte thought that this football stuff would help him but it didn’t. He was extremely unimpressive in court.”
“I never got any hassle from Rangers fans at all. Not a single bad word. In fact, all of the feedback I got was sympathetic and positive towards what I was trying to do. All I wanted was for him to pay the money owed.”
Robert’s wife’s cousin drives a recovery breakdown truck. A few months after the case, Robert got a call from him. He told Robert that he had been given a job to go collect a Bentley. It was being impounded by a court action raised by a wife who had several young children and her estranged husband was not fulfilling his financial obligations to her or the kids.
The Bentley belonged to Craig Whyte and it’s repossession, his in-law thought, could put a smile back on Robert’s face. It was actually proven that the Bentley was indeed owned by a company that Whyte owned. As a result, the car could not be sold to replace funds that Whyte personally had defaulted on. The Bentley was subsequently returned to Craig Whyte, no doubt to soil with his dirty brown brogues. And there was no smile and no payment of £135,000 from the man who was the last owner of Rangers Football Club.
One wonders if Rangers Football Club / Company may like the Bentley, find its way back to Whyte due to the underhand nature of his business operation. Or maybe, for Rangers, the roof is about to fall all over again?