Former Rangers boss Walter Smith recalls first meeting with Craig Whyte
Last Updated: 21/04/17 2:19pm
Former Rangers manager Walter Smith has been giving evidence at the trial of ex-club owner Craig Whyte.
Mr Smith, 69, was the first witness in the case against Whyte, who is accused of a fraudulent acquisition of the club.
He told the High Court in Glasgow about his time managing the team between 1991 and 1998, and then again from 2007 until 2011.
During the first day of evidence, the jury of eight men and seven women heard about the first meeting between Mr Smith and Whyte, 46, shortly before he took over the club in May 2011.
The meeting took place in Glasgow and also included former chief executive Martin Bain and former finance director Donald McIntyre.
Mr Smith, who identified Whyte in the dock, said the purpose of the meeting was for the prospective owner to ask questions before he went ahead and bought the club.
"From Mr Whyte's point of view, he was more interested in the financial aspects of the club," he said. "He asked me towards the end of the meeting what I felt was required for the football team."
Mr Smith said he had told Whyte the team required investment.
"I felt the team needed a level of freshness," he said. "He seemed to take that in. I was obviously meeting him for the first time and I was leaving as manager. I think he accepted that."
The former manager told the court that at the time he was aware of a tax case involving Rangers but was not directly involved.
Mr Smith said he was also aware of an overdraft the club had at the time, which he said had reduced over the four years he was in place from about £30m to around £16m when he left, just days after Whyte took over the club.
Whyte faces two charges relating to the purchase, one of fraud and another under the Companies Act.
It is alleged he pretended to then-Rangers owner Sir David Murray, and others, that funds were available to make all required payments to acquire a "controlling and majority stake" in the club - including clearing an £18m bank debt, £2.8m for the "small tax case" liability, a £1.7m health-and-safety liability and £5m for the playing squad.
The Crown alleges Mr Whyte had only £4m available from two sources at the time but took out a £24m loan from Ticketus against three years of future season ticket sales "which was held subject to an agreement or agreements being entered into between the club and Ticketus after said acquisition".
The second charge under the Companies Act centres on the £18m payment between Mr Whyte's Wavetower company and Rangers to clear a Bank of Scotland debt.
Whyte denies both charges.