“Crash and burn”. That was the outcome I expected to await Murray International Holding’s (MIH) debt-fuelled expansion in the early part of the last decade. This wasn’t entrepreneurship. Borrowing money to invest in a market which was on a long-term growth spurt, without consideration that your asset values could fall, was corporate vandalism. It was a safe enough bet as long as the commercial property market continued its incessant upwards trend, but the bubble had to burst eventually.
There were other voices out there saying the same thing. In the pre-blog era I remember printed copies of the Dogs Bollox passed around like the potentially-subversive underground insights they were. It was financial madness, writ large, all you needed to do was step back a little to see what was happening.
Celtic Quick News started because the underlying story of the biggest issue in Scottish football – the ability of the two largest clubs to pay their bills – was not being told. Without Murray’s debt splurge, this blog would never have happened.
I gave running commentaries of what to expect of Rangers and MIH accounts when they were released in 2005, the evidence will be there, I told you. I didn’t expect a convenient, and remarkable, property revaluation. It was smoke and mirrors, though Murray inspired such confidence, even among Celtic fans, I remember “Why can’t we just revalue Celtic Park and borrow more?”
Millions were taken in executive pay and bonuses each year, despite borrowings galloping away, while the Bank of Scotland continued to open the vault. MIH wasn’t the only bad bet Bank of Scotland made, but it was the worst.
Rangers were the ultimate vanity project. Tens of thousands of people literally fawned before Murray, he wallowed in decades of deference, controlling oceans of the media. The best parts of history are never written, and what happened at Rangers, and with the Bank of Scotland is no different. While Murray is alive you’re only going to read the parts of this story with documented evidence.
The illegal EBT scandal was typical of how the business operated. Through this, and the also-illegal Discounted Options Scheme, Murray drove a horse and cart through the SFA rulebook. Lord Nimmo Smith found as much. In Craig Whyte, Rangers appointed a person who was not fit and proper to run a football club. Whyte was sine died from the game and Rangers were disciplined, but it was Murray who sold the business to Whyte, despite his personal history. For all the rule breaking, and subsequent havoc he inflicted on his club, Murray has not been brought to account by the SFA, his allies still hold the balance of power, but not for ever.
The knighthood for services to Scottish business will sound hollow to those who invested in MIH pensions, and who were recently told their funds are in trouble. Yesterday’s news that Murray is putting a squad of his businesses into liquidation, or from BBC’s Douglas Fraser that Murray’s family are buying “fire-sale assets” from MIH, which, he explains, “received what’s called “an unsolicited approach from the Murray family”, tells you what you need to know about the man.
If only there was the political will to ask for an inquiry into hundreds of millions of pounds of public money lost to the exchequer, as publicly-owned Lloyds, now owners of the Bank of Scotland, slowly come to terms with how deep the Charlotte Square money pit is. Murray’s acolytes, those who partied hard with him during the good times, remain scattered through Scotland, from Holyrood, to Hampden. It will take years before they slowly lose grip on their own fiefdoms.
Strip him of his title, discipline him for the rule-breaking in Scottish football, and have an inquiry into how his coalescence with the financial, political and media sectors rendered him immune from responsibility.
More later on Gary Mackay-Steven.[calameo code=0003901718eccc6101c78 lang=en page=1 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]