This is part one of our exclusive three-part interview with Craig Whyte. For part two, click here. Part three will be published in Monday's Glasgow Times.

CRAIG Whyte, the controversial owner of Rangers when they went into administration back in 2012, released his account of his time at the Ibrox club, Into The Bear Pit, yesterday.

Whyte, who became a hate figure for thousands of fans when Rangers was liquidated and then placed in the fourth tier of Scottish football, denies he was responsible for the fate suffered by the 140-year-old Glasgow institution in his new book.

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In an exclusive interview, Whyte recalls the detrimental impact of the 54-time Scottish champions’ failure to qualify for Europe in the 2011/12 season, explains how he ultimately regretted the departure of Walter Smith as manager and reveals what happened to the Arsenal shares.

The 49-year-old, acquitted of all charges relating to his takeover at a High Court trial in 2017, also tells of the massive repercussions his involvement in Rangers’ financial implosion had on both him and his family and explains what he hopes to achieve by publishing his book eight years on.

Q: When did you decide to write an account of your time at Rangers? And why?

A: I DECIDED to do it during the trial back in 2017. Most of the work was done on it in the months after the trial. I am not quite sure why it took so long to get from there to here two years later.

I decided the real story needs to come out. There has been so much written about it. It has been so distorted. There has been so much misunderstanding and misinformation out there. I just wanted to get my side of it out there. I wanted to draw a line under it.

Even in the editing process, when I was reading through the book, I was surprised at some of the content. You forget some of the more ridiculous things that happened. You think: ‘Bloody hell! How did I get myself into that situation?’ But, yeah, it was good to get everything down.

There is this perception among Rangers fans that somehow I profited from this whole thing. The opposite is the case. The experience cost me millions because of the guarantees which I had given to Ticketus.

There is this perception, which I think still exists among a certain element of the Rangers support, that I asset stripped the club. I would love an explanation from somebody about how I did that. It didn’t happen.

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I lost a lot financially from my experience with Rangers. I am probably one of the biggest individual contributors in Rangers history towards paying off the debt given what Ticketus managed to get from my personal guarantees.

This notion that I somehow profited is part of the reason there is so much animosity towards me from some of the Rangers support. They somehow think I had some big plan to go in there and destroy the club and personally profit from it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Q: You financed your purchase of Rangers with £20 million from Ticketus for advance season ticket sales. How did you envisage that deal working?

A: IT would have worked. It would have effectively been rolled over. So when the next season’s money came in you would have paid them back some money and then taken out a loan out on the following season’s money.

That would have had to have happened until the tax case was resolved and we could have gone for more sensible facilities, like an equity issue. Of course, Charles Green proved that could easily be done because he raised £25m on the equity market.

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The plan at the time was to use Ticketus to finance it (the purchase of Rangers), win the tax case, then go to the equity markets to raise a chunk of money to pay back Ticketus and everything is hunky dory.

The alternative to that, as I saw it at the time, we lose the tax case, go into administration and follow the same plan. Do a pre-packed administration and the same plan. It seemed simple at the time. Of course, my mistake was looking at a football club as a business and not some other kind of entity.

Running a football club is more like being a politician, like being a president of a small country. You have got your support base there, you have got the press pack following you around and looking at everything that you do. There is a lot of similarities.

A football club, particularly one like Rangers, punches way above its weight. In terms of the financials it is just a medium-sized company turning over £40m or £50m a year. But in terms of the attention it gets it is much greater.”

Q: Lord Hodge later ruled the Ticketus deal was illegal under Scottish law. If you or Ticketus had known that at the time would you have bought Rangers?

A: IT would have been impossible to do the deal without some kind of external finance. Ticketus were the only option on the table. If Ticketus had taken Scottish legal advice or if my lawyers had taken Scottish legal advice – which, amazingly, neither of us did – then the deal would never have happened.

Q: You say in the book that if you could you would do things differently. Do you think Rangers could have avoided administration and liquidation?

A: THERE is no way Rangers were going to survive. They lost all the tax cases and the subsequent appeals against the tax cases. The only possibility was to get a CVA (company voluntary arrangement) through so it was the same legal entity.

I say in the book, the best decision, with the benefit of hindsight, would have been to put it into administration on day one. If I had done that then I would have profbably got a CVA through. It would have depended on HMRC’s attitude. But there would have been a better chance of saving it in some shape or form by doing that.

But with the level of the debt, nobody, even a multi-billionaire, was going to stick £100m into Rangers. It was just a non-starter.

READ MORE: Craig Whyte: I edited Rangers stories before they were printed

Nobody was going to come along and fund a football club with the liabilities that Rangers had. You look at the other assets the club had. Nobody is going to lend against a stadium, for example, because it isn’t a useful asset for anything else. The only other significant asset they had was the training ground which, again, is on a flood plain. You can’t do anything with it.

So there was, despite the balance sheet showing about £70m of net assets at the time, very little you could actually sell, which is what a lender is looking at.

Glasgow Times: The gates of Ibrox Stadium

With the tax case there, nobody in their right mind was going to shovel money into it. It just wasn’t going to happen. All you would end up doing was paying HMRC in penalties. The bill at one time was looking like being about £75m to £80m. The way these things increase with penalties and so on you could easily be looking at £100m. There was just no way that anybody was going to do that.

The way this all came about was when the Rangers offices were raided about something else (an investigation into allegations of transfer irregularities in 2007) they (City of London Police) found all these side letters and gave them to HMRC.

When that happened you would think that anybody with half a brain would stop the scheme there and then. Let’s draw a line under this. What they (the old Rangers board) should have done, when the board first realised they had this problem (with the EBT scheme), was stop it. Then the problem would not have grown to the extent that it did. They should have stopped it back then.

Then they could have stopped spending money on transfers for two or three years, built up enough money to pay the debt and that would have solved the problem. By the time I got involved the opportunity to do that long gone.

Q: But wouldn’t HMRC still have rejected the CVA if you had put Rangers into administration straight away?

A: THAT is an interesting question. That is something that was discussed a lot before administration. That was a key point in my discussions with Duff and Phelps. Will HMRC be able to vote on the claim? Because that affects everyone.

There would have been a better possibility (of HMRC accepting the CVA) if I had sat down with them on day one and said ‘look, this is what we’re doing’. They would have been more receptive then.

The way things worked out, after all that happened over the following months and the bad publicity and BBC documentaries and the PAYE not being paid and so on...

It would have had a better opportunity if it had happened either on day one or in October, the other time I thought about doing it.

I had a conversation with some of the other board members and with Ally McCoist at the time. I said: ‘Look, if we go into administration we will get docked 10 points, we will still be top of the league and you can still go on and win the league here. You can go down in history as one of the best managers ever if you win the league after a 10 point deduction.’

Glasgow Times:

If I had had the bottle to put Rangers into administration before the outcome of the tax case was known after the takeover went through in May or in October then we might have been having a different conversation today. You might be talking to me as chairman of Rangers rather than somebody who has written a book about his time as chairman of Rangers.

Q: You write that MCR, who were your financial advisors at a corporate restructuring firm, being bought over by Duff and Phelps was a major turning point. If that hadn’t happened would things have turned out differently?

A: POSSIBLY. It’s my responsibility at the end of the day. I picked the wrong people. Could it have been saved? Possibly. I did talk to Blair Nimmo of KPMG at the time. If I had used him? Maybe. He might have carried more weight with HMRC and helped get some kind of CVA through.

But nobody helped themselves. All the fighting between past board members and fan groups and current board members. It was just a mess. If everybody had all stuck together and said ‘this is what we want to achieve here’ then there could have been an opportunity for things to turn out differently. But it is all what ifs, isn’t it? The reality is nobody knows.

Sir David Murray and Duff & Phelps were approached for comment.