Ex-Collyer Bristow partner Withey to join Rangers trial as defendant

A case being brought by the administrators of Rangers Football Club against Collyer Bristow has been delayed after former partner and ex-club company secretary Gary Withey applied to join proceedings as a defendant.

Up to now Withey, who was instrumental in businessman Craig Whyte’s doomed takeover of the Scottish club, was not party to administrators Duff & Phelp’s claim of at least £25m damages against Collyer Bristow.

The firm is accused of “deliberate deception” in a case brought by Duff & Phelps partners Paul Clark and David Whitehouse in relation to the advice Withey provided on Whyte’s bid.

Taylor Wessing restructuring partners Nick Moser and Neil Smyth are instructed for the administrators, with Clyde & Co partner Richard Harrison and senior associate Nicole McKinnon representing Collyer Bristow.

To this point, the claim was effectively against Collyer Bristows’ insurers, but if Withey’s application to join proceedings as a defendant is successful, he could also be found liable.

Withey could not be contacted at his current firm Segens, where he is a consultant, but The Lawyer understands he wishes to have the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations of his conduct contained in the claim. His application will be heard on 10 September.

Withey has instructed Mayer Brown partner Will Glassey, who has instructed Wilberforce Chambers’ John Wardell QC.

The trial was set for October, but a case management conference will now take place on that date instead.

Both sides maintain that they have a strong case, with the administrators’ counsel, South Square’s Mark Phillips QC, insisting there was a “conspiracy” to cause injury to the club by opting for Whyte’s takeover rather than a share issue to raise the funds and pay off debt.

Phillips also said that it would be “extremely difficult” for Collyer Bristow to show that Withey’s statements were “anything but false”.

For Collyer Bristow 3VB’s Cyril Kinsky QC and Matthew Hardwick have now been joined by Wilberforce Chambers’ Ian Croxford QC. They have pledged to “vigorously defend” the claims and the firm has said it finds the claims “highly speculative”.

It is accepted from both sides that there is no evidence that anyone bar Withey from Collyer Bristow was involved in the alleged “conspiracy” – which makes his intervener application all the more interesting.

He previously told The Lawyer: “Those allegations are an outrage – they are groundless, they should not have been made, and at the appropriate time the true facts surrounding this matter will be brought to light.”

It is also understood that the eventual claim against Collyer Bristow could dwarf the £25m figure put forward.

Taylor Wessing, for the administrators, is expected to suggest that the damages flow from the failure to secure shareholders funding and as a result, include the club’s lost income and eventual liquidation.

In April, the firm had sought an expedited trial in a bid to secure the financial future of the club. That will not happen as Rangers has been reformed as a ‘newco’ and will start life in the Scottish Division Three.

Rangers v Collyer Bristow: The legal story so far (30 April 2012).