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Let down

I am disappointed. I know that the great days of Scottish journalism ended when the Barclay brothers bought the Scotsman and its associated titles, and were consigned to the dustbin of history when they sold them on to the hapless Johnston Press, but I had hoped that a spark of true quality remained.

Since February 14, thousands of Scottish media man hours have been invested in coverage of the escalating problems of Rangers Football Club, and the tenure of its ‘owner’, Craig Whyte.   Thanks to the likes of the intensely annoying Graham Speirs, and some very good football writers, we have been able to follow the saga as it has developed then unravelled, then developed again, as mysterious Singaporeans have come and gone, as Blue Knights have gathered at their Round Table, only to bottle out of actually undertaking the quest, and as an American with a sound business record but no possible idea of the complexities of our football culture seems about to take the reins from them, and ride forward into the unknown.

We know all there is to know about Rangers, until the next twist in the tale, that is. So why do I feel let down by Scottish journalism? This is the reason. When my wife asked me this morning, ‘Why isn’t this man Whyte in jail?’ I could give her no sensible answer.

In its coverage of this scandal, our editors seem to have become so parochial that they cannot think beyond football. This story is about more than Rangers, and the impact of their potential demise. Far too little attention has been paid to Whyte himself. From the moment he was unveiled as the new Scottish business hero, the self-made billionaire who was going to get the former billionaire, Sir David Murray, off the hook of owning Rangers, and rip its purse-strings from the miserly hands of Lloyds plc, he should have been subjected to the most intense scrutiny. For a business hero to be unsung, that’s one thing, but for him to have done all that high value corporate turn-around stuff, yet still have a personal profile below the threshold of visibility,  that’s another. Mr Whyte was a mystery demanding to be investigated, but nobody did, at least nobody who was any damn good at it. He is the real story, and has been since day one, but our media seems not to be interested in anything beyond Ibrox Stadium and Edmiston Drive.

If it wasn’t for my friend Bob, who has Rangers in his bloodstream, I wouldn’t know about this:

http://www.insidermedia.com/insider/south-west/70007-3m-shortfall-expected-after-pritchard-admin/

If it wasn’t for the fact that Bob has a friend who was invested with the firm at the heart of this drama, he might never have known about it either.

If it wasn’t for the reporter who investigated it, tweaked out the underlying facts and published them, I might never have known that  Craig Whyte was the company secretary of Pritchard Stockbrokers Ltd, a Bournemouth based  firm that went down the toilet on the very same day (yes, Valentine’s Day) as Rangers did, taking an estimated £3.4m of clients’ money with it.

In one final irony, Pritchard’s client list included, at the time of its collapse, Rangers plc, for whom it was holding £223,214. This doesn’t just beg the question, ‘Why did Mr Whyte lodge almost a quarter of a million with a company in which he had an interest rather than pay a few of his debts?’ It screams it. This story is worth the front page of any Scottish broadsheet. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I don’t think so.

The picture that the Scottish press has painted for us, through its editorial negligence, shows only Rangers, and the tangential issues seem to be all about punishment and the sanctions that should be applied to the club, for its cavalier attitude to its debtors, and in particular those who happen to be fellow Scottish Premier League members. The picture that I can see shows the entity that is Rangers plc as a victim, just as those who may lose out (but hopefully will be indemnified) through the collapse of Pritchard Stockbrokers are victims. How many others are there, to be found in the periphery of Mr Whyte? None, I hope, but a half decent editor would have sent his best business reporter to find out, some time ago.

 

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Eddie
    May 7, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Wasn’t there a BBC documentary detailing Craig Whyte’s financial dealings including the Bournemouth stockbroker escapades?

    • May 8, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Yes, there was a documentary, but as far as I know it was about Whyte’s record as a disqualified director, and his activities during that time. However I do not recall that Pritchard Stockbrokers featured, not would I have expected them to as the problems within that firm did not surface until this year. In any event, that documentary tends to make my case about the inert Scottish media. Whyte threatened to sue the BBC (as far as I know he never did) and nobody followed up its good work with the rigour that was necessary. Had anyone done so, the rescue mission might have begun a couple of months sooner. If the likes of Chris Baur, Alf Young, or Ray Perman were around today, they’d have smoked him out early, but they do not seem to be around any more, or to have inspired worthy followers.

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