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Fergus McCann: The epic account of how the man in the bunnet saved Celtic

In 1994, Scots-born Canadian tycoon McCann swept into Parkhead to remove family dynasties at the club and usher in the modern era. To mark the 30-year anniversary of the day many say saved Celtic, we reproduce this epic account from Nutmeg 14.

By Illustrations by John Sweeney

This article first appeared in Issue 14 which was published in December 2019.

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Matters appeared to be coming to a head when a tumultuous EGM took place at Celtic Park in April 1992, when the former director Dempsey and his allies successfully blocked a bid by the Kelly-White board to remove fellow directors Tom Grant and James Farrell from their posts.
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By now the Bank of Scotland had secured a floating charge over the company, meaning that if the club couldn’t pay its bills, the bank could seize all its existing assets, including the stadium, the pitch and even the players’ registrations.

On March 4, 1994, Fergus McCann flew into Glasgow overnight from the States, wearing his trademark bunnet, to rescue a distressed and forlorn Celtic Football Club from almost certain insolvency.

It was the culmination of an interest in the Parkhead club on McCann’s part which had stretched back over several years. As early as 1988, he had sounded out the club’s board with an offer to provide funds, via a low interest loan, to increase the capacity at Celtic Park to 72,000, which would have included an expansion of the number of seats in the ground from 8,700 to 24,000. His plans, however, were rebuffed. The problem with Celtic at this time, it was becoming increasingly obvious, was the club’s beleaguered and inflexible ‘biscuit tin’ board of directors, who habitually dismissed McCann with the perennial question ‘When are you going back to Montreal, Fergus?’

Instead of welcoming his offers of assistance, the directors viewed McCann’s interest in the club as a threat to their own positions, a short-sighted approach which was exacerbated by the determination of a majority of the senior figures to hold on to their posts due to their families’ history of involvement with Celtic.

Chairman Kevin Kelly and his younger cousin Michael were nephews of Sir Robert Kelly, who had served as chairman from 1947 until 1971 and been knighted after the club’s European Cup win in Lisbon in 1967, while their grandfather was James Kelly, Sir Robert’s father, Celtic’s first ever captain and another former chairman of the club. In addition, club secretary Christopher White, Celtic’s largest individual shareholder, was the son of former chairman Desmond White, who succeeded Sir Robert in 1971, remaining in his post until his death in 1985, and the grandson of Tom White, the club’s long-standing chairman from 1914 until 1947, who also served as head of the SFA from 1919 to 1927.

Finally, stadium director Tom Grant was the great-grandson of James Grant, who was elected to the board of the newly incorporated Celtic in April 1897. Although it was never the intention among Celtic’s numerous and varied early movers and shakers that the club should become a dynastic affair, the Kellys and Whites, in particular, had over the years come to dominate the club’s boardroom and they had also amassed a significant percentage of the company shares, which, over the next few years of trouble and turmoil at Celtic Park, made them almost impossible to dislodge.

The unmistakable sense of stagnation at Parkhead around this time was complicated considerably in January 1990 with the publication of the Taylor Report, commissioned in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster the previous April when 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in a devastating crush on an overcrowded and poorly policed section of terracing at the start of the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest. The report called for top-flight football grounds around Britain to be converted to all-seater stadiums, a recommendation which was quickly accepted by the Government, and the requirement for the ageing terraces to be torn down and replaced with new seated stands was universally adopted, with a deadline imposed for the upgrades to be completed by the start of the 1994/95 season.

It was an unwelcome development and a shock to the system for Celtic. Aside from the main stand, constructed in the early 1970s, the interior of the ground had remained largely unaltered for decades. With its vast sprawling terraces Celtic Park had been compared to ‘Paradise’ in the 1890s when it was first constructed, a nickname that had stuck. But 100 years later the Parkhead stadium was indisputably showing signs of age and had been dubbed “the finest 19th century ground in Britain”. Celtic’s response, in May 1990, was to co-opt on to the board Michael Kelly and Brian Dempsey, men with acknowledged expertise in, respectively, public relations and property development.

Kelly was a former Lord Provost of Glasgow, best known for bestowing the freedom of the city on Nelson Mandela, and for his work in developing the successful Glasgow’s Miles Better campaign, which had helped to transform the city’s unfashionable image by the early 1980s and reinvigorate its declining economy. Dempsey was the son of the former Labour MP for Coatbridge and Airdrie, Jimmy Dempsey, who had defeated his Conservative, or Unionist, opponent Catherine Morton, sister of Rangers director and legendary winger Alan Morton, by less than 800 votes at the 1959 general election. Despite being something of an outsider, in that he was neither a scion of one of the established families nor a former Celtic employee, it was intended that Dempsey would provide assistance to the club over its dilemma with the condition of the stadium in the post-Hillsborough era.

A new Celtic Park?

Following their appointment, a photo of Kelly and Dempsey in an embrace, holding a cake and a placard reading ‘Celtic’s miles better’ was circulated among the press, although as Matt McGlone of Celts For Change later noted: “I bet neither of them has that picture on their mantelpiece at home any more.”

Almost as soon as he became involved with Celtic, Dempsey came forward with an ambitious plan to deal with the stadium issue by relocating the club to a new, purpose-built ground in the Robroyston area of the city on a site where he happened to have a stake in the ownership of the land. It soon became clear, however, that the two nominated directors did not get along and, using Dempsey’s alleged conflict of interests over the proposed new stadium site as his pretext, Kelly, in partnership with club secretary Chris White, engineered Dempsey’s removal from the board just five months later at the club’s AGM in October, when Dempsey’s proposed ratification as a director was voted down.

The defeated Dempsey was forced to withdraw and consider his options, but, as he gathered allies to his cause over the next few years, frequently appearing at supporters’ rallies as an outspoken critic of the board and an advocate of regime change at Parkhead, it soon became clear that, in the struggle for control of Celtic Football Club, the battle lines had been drawn.

In the meantime, the Celtic team on the field were struggling under the stewardship of new manager Liam Brady, who had replaced the sacked Billy McNeill in the summer of 1991. Very few, if any, of Brady’s initial signings was able to make a positive impact at the club, however, meaning that without really strengthening the team, the club’s off-field position had worsened, as Brady’s spending helped to push Celtic’s overdraft up by more than £2 million to a looming total of £5m, the agreed limit.

Change begins

Matters appeared to be coming to a head when a tumultuous EGM took place at Celtic Park in April 1992, when the former director Dempsey and his allies successfully blocked a bid by the Kelly-White board to remove fellow directors Tom Grant and James Farrell from their posts. The EGM, the club’s first since 1948, had originally been requisitioned by the board in a bid to try to outmanoeuvre Dempsey and his band of supporters, by now known collectively as ‘the rebels’, who had for some time been agitating for a takeover of the club and demanding seats on the board.

Orchestrated by financial adviser David Low, the rebels had been buying up shares and acquiring proxies which were held in far-flung corners of the globe by, in many cases, descendants of Celtic’s early stakeholders at the time of the club’s foundation in 1888 and incorporation in 1897. Although they still didn’t have the numbers to pursue their plans for a takeover of the club, the Dempsey-led rebels were now in a position, thanks to a successful writ obtained from the Court of Session in Edinburgh which prevented the owners of partly-paid shares from using their votes at the EGM, to block the board from removing Farrell.

Stadium director Tom Grant meanwhile, a relatively young man with a recent mortgage and two adopted young children, appeared to waver over the direction of his allegiances and his indecision was exploited by Michael Kelly, who persuaded him to sign up with the board at the last minute, at which point the vote to remove him became a merely procedural issue.

The EGM also saw the ratification of the appointment to the board of David Smith, who had been named the club’s finance director the previous month and who was now also confirmed in his role as the company’s vice-chairman. Smith was a long-standing friend and associate of club secretary Christopher White who had previously been involved in the multi-billion-pound acquisition of the Gateway supermarket group, the biggest business deal in European corporate history at the time, and it was hoped that he would bring some much-needed experience and business acumen to the board.

Quash the rebellion

White and Michael Kelly saw Smith as a crucial weapon in their efforts to the quash the rebellious faction, but his appointment appeared to have split the board and it was only with the casting vote of chairman Kevin Kelly that Smith’s nomination was eventually approved.

One of Smith’s first acts as finance director was to instigate a formal agreement among the board members not to sell their shares to outside parties. With rumours of a potential takeover escalating and having witnessed how the energy and determination of the rebels had scored them such noted successes at the EGM, five of the seven directors put their names to a legally binding shareholders’ agreement, or pact, which was intended to preserve the status quo in the boardroom and protect their positions at the club. Under the terms of the pact, which was established through a company called Celtic Nominees Ltd, none of the signatories could legally sell his shares to a third party without first offering them to the other directors. Valid for ten years and requiring the members to vote together on all issues at board meetings, the watertight pact was an unashamedly defensive move by the controlling families on the board, motivated by self-preservation and designed to stop the ongoing attempts by Dempsey and his allies to buy up shares and gain control of the club.

With the nominees’ combined portfolios accounting for 60% of the club’s total holdings, in the short-term at least, the pact succeeded in its primary aim, with Michael Kelly observing: “The shareholders agreement dealt effectively with the takeover tactics of the rebels… We had slammed the door firmly in their faces and had locked a large amount of their money into a hopeless minority position.” The result was a tortuous stalemate, which rumbled on for a further two years and which propped up the board almost to the point of the club’s insolvency.

Who is Fergus McCann?

In the days running up to the EGM, the press had introduced the Scottish footballing public to Fergus McCann, dispatching their intrepid reporters out to doorstep the Canadian businessman at his hotel in Glasgow and splashing their profiles of him across the tabloid back pages. McCann, it was revealed, had his own plans and ideas for the future of Celtic, which involved injecting £17m of new capital into the club – £5m from fans who would take up shares in a rights issue, £5m from outside investors and £7m of his own money through a separate company called Celtic’s Future plc.

Despite all the previous dismissals, McCann was still sounding conciliatory towards the sitting directors and hopeful that they would approve his plan for a rights issue. While confirming that he had held talks with some of the rebels, he was at pains to stress his independence and his reluctance to take sides, confirming that, although he was in Glasgow, he wouldn’t be attending the EGM.

Meanwhile, an important part of David Smith’s remit in his new capacity as finance director and vice-chairman of Celtic was to take forward the club’s bid to relocate the stadium to a 30-hectare site in Cambuslang, two miles to the east of Parkhead, a plan which was formally revealed with much fanfare in the Celtic View in April 1992. With construction due to begin by the end of the year, the initial phase of the project required £26m to be raised for a stadium with 32,000 seats running along the touchlines which would be ready for the start of the 1994 season, with 10,000 seats at each end to be added at a later date.

Perhaps understandably there was scepticism right from the start, with chairman Kevin Kelly admitting that planning permission was still required for the new site and that, more significantly, funding for the complex had not yet been secured, with total costs expected to reach £100m and the deadline for compliance with the requirements of the Taylor Report just over two years away. Regardless, the board ploughed ahead with their plans over the next few years until, perhaps inevitably, the project stalled and became beset with problems, including claims that the proposed site was contaminated with toxic chemicals and susceptible to flooding from the nearby River Clyde.

Liam Brady resigns

In the summer of 1993, after yet another fruitless campaign, manager Liam Brady moved to shake up his backroom team by adding former Celtic players Tom McAdam and Frank Connor to his coaching staff and bringing in former Scotland international forward Joe Jordan as his assistant. The fans, however, had finally run out of patience with Brady, something the manager was intelligent enough to detect, and it seemed that the writing was on the wall when Celtic travelled to Perth for a midweek fixture on October 6 and lost 2-1 to lowly St Johnstone. Brady’s mind was made up and shortly after the team bus arrived back in Glasgow, the manager offered his resignation to Kevin Kelly, which was immediately accepted by the chairman.

With Brady gone, Jordan took training the following day and then decided that he would follow his boss out the door, claiming that he was unwilling to step into the manager’s shoes after only being appointed as an assistant that summer, but perhaps learning in the meantime that the board had no intention of promoting him, after the club’s pursuit of Stoke City manager Lou Macari became public. By the time of Saturday’s home game against Dundee, first team coach Frank Connor was virtually the last man standing and he oversaw a 2-1 victory for his charges in what, incredibly, was Celtic’s first home win of the season. The match was played out in a surreal atmosphere in front of less than 17,000 supporters as the organised protests by the fans began to gather momentum, with many expressing vociferous opposition to the board before and throughout the course of the game.

Fergus ups the ante

The following month witnessed yet another momentous Celtic EGM, when Fergus McCann and his allies effectively went all in to try to persuade the besieged directors, still stubbornly bound together by their notorious voting pact, to accept the offer of fresh investment which was on the table and allow a rights issue to broaden the ownership of the club.

By now, the rebels and their growing band of associates had switched tactics and were trying to loosen the board’s control of the club, not through numbers, which were still stacked against them due to the watertight pact, but by an emotional appeal to the shareholders’ judgement and common sense, as they waved millions of pounds in front of the directors of what was, it seemed indisputably clear to everyone by this stage, a desperately struggling institution.

At the time, the assets to debt ratio of Celtic, in effect the value of the club, stood at just £571,000 – the equivalent figure for Rangers was £34.8m – while, if that wasn’t enough to set alarm bells ringing, by now the Bank of Scotland had secured a floating charge over the company, meaning that if the club couldn’t pay its bills, the bank could seize all its existing assets, including the stadium, the pitch and even the players’ registrations. Despite this clearly precarious predicament, Michael Kelly dismissed concerns about the floating charge, telling one journalist: “Most companies have it. Banks like to have these sorts of things.”

On the night of the EGM meeting, McCann pledged to produce funds from various sources totalling £17.9m, described as “the biggest offer of equity ever made to a British football club”, which would pay for the upgrade of the stadium, for strengthening the team and for dealing with the club’s perilous financial position. His resolution also proposed to increase the issued number of shares from 20,000 to 250,000 which, working on the assumption that the existing directors could not afford to take them up, would then allow McCann and his colleagues to put up their money and buy their way in.

What McCann demanded

In return for a 50% stake, McCann wanted outright control for five years, during which time his shares would be ‘locked in’, before being sold to other existing shareholders, ensuring that the ownership of Celtic would be kept in the hands of people who held the club dear. In the end, however, regardless of all the protests and the heartfelt entreaties from the floor, the shareholders’ pact could not be shifted, and with a two-thirds majority required for McCann’s plans to be accepted, the resolution failed, with 47 votes in favour and the same number opposed on a show of hands.

Seemingly undaunted, the beleaguered board limped on into the new year. At the Ne’erday game on January 1, 1994, Rangers scored two goals inside the first three minutes at Celtic Park and the visitors added a third unanswered strike before the half-hour mark, prompting fans in the main stand to start pelting members of the board, seated in the Parkhead directors’ box, with improvised missiles, including coins, Mars Bars and half-eaten pies. As Celtic eventually succumbed to a 4-2 defeat, the exasperation of some supporters grew to such an extent that they turned their attention away from the game for long periods in order to sustain the invective which was being directed towards the board, and when Celtic subsequently lost their next two league games, to Partick Thistle and Motherwell, and then exited the Scottish Cup a few weeks later, it appeared that any lingering sympathy for the Celtic board among the club’s supporters was vanishingly difficult to detect.

Enter Celts For Change

The majority of the fans by now were spitting feathers. Two-and-a-half years after the appearance of the first supporter-organised protest group – an organisation calling itself Save Our Celts, which had held its inaugural meeting in Shettleston Town Hall in February 1991 – the mantle now had passed to Celts For Change, a more determined and serious body with a committee of five young Celtic sympathisers, led by Matt McGlone, the editor of the fanzine Once A Tim, Always A Tim.

The founders of Celts For Change freely admit that, initially at least, they were learning on the job and making things up as they went along. The five-man committee were mostly working-class twentysomethings, who had almost no experience of event management or public speaking between them. And yet ,within a short space of time they were addressing rallies attended by huge numbers of frustrated Celtic supporters, who were impressed in particular by McGlone’s firebrand rhetoric as well as by the depth of the group’s concern and the extent of their efforts to bring about reform.

Celts For Change’s timing was impeccable; the team’s form had collapsed, the fans had lost faith in the directors and, perhaps most worryingly of all from the board’s point of view, the bank was now weighing up its options.

March on the bank

In a targeted attempt to try to influence the club’s main creditor, another move by the group involved an organised march on the Bank of Scotland’s Glasgow headquarters on St Vincent Street, with several hundred fans in attendance carrying placards in support of McCann and urging the bank not to prop up a bankrupt board. After entering the bank’s premises, accompanied by television crews, McGlone demanded to speak to the manager, but was told he was unavailable. “If we can’t speak to the manager then all of the people outside will be coming in to open accounts and then close them again,” McGlone insisted.

Eventually the assistant manager was briefly put at the group’s disposal, and the protest leaders were duly informed that the bank’s relationship with its customers was a matter of confidence and not something which could be publicly discussed. Nevertheless, despite this inevitably brief riposte, the stunt had fulfilled its primary purpose by attracting a great deal of publicity in the mainstream media, which in turn afforded Celts For Change new levels of credibility among wavering and confused fans, particularly when, later that evening, footage from the rally was shown on the main evening news bulletins on both BBC Scotland and STV.

Deep within his ivory towers, Rowland Mitchell, the bank’s general manager in Glasgow, blinked. The group’s ultimate weapon of protest, however, was the threat of an organised boycott of home matches at Celtic Park, and with all other avenues seemingly exhausted, drastic action was now called for. In a controversial move, which was criticised even by some sympathisers as going against the group’s mantra of ‘Back the team, sack the board’, the rearranged match against Kilmarnock on Tuesday, March 1, postponed from the weekend following a blizzard, was identified as the game when Celts For Change would carry out their threat to effectively withdraw their financial support from the club and its besieged board of directors.

The boycott

After discussions with other supporters organisations, McGlone’s group put out a call for an official boycott and stationed activists and independent market research agents around the stadium to make a headcount of those passing through the turnstiles. The result was a disputed attendance figure, with Celts For Change claiming that only 8,225 people were present at the game, compared to the club’s official total of 10,882, but regardless of the exact numbers, the size of the crowd was small. With Kilmarnock having brought up almost 2,000 fans from Ayrshire and with Celtic’s 7,000 season-ticket holders presumed to be in attendance, paying customers on the night must have been pretty thin on the ground. It seemed there was no way that the club could break even on these numbers, and by the end of the week the struggle for control of Celtic Football Club would finally be settled.

In the meantime, however, a few days in advance of the boycotted match against Kilmarnock, the beleaguered board and the group of directors who were still signed up to the voting pact made a final throw of the dice in a last-ditch attempt to try to cling on to their positions and remain in charge of the club. Announced by finance director David Smith to a packed press conference in the Jock Stein Suite at Celtic Park, the board revealed its new plan to raise an estimated £4m-£6m by immediately releasing up to 30,000 new shares, valued at approximately £200 each, in order to provide sufficient short-term liquidity to deal with the club’s crippling overdraft and provide funds to buy new players.

Based on the Manchester United model, the board would then take the club into public ownership later in the year through the flotation of a new holding company, which would have its own board of directors, including Smith, the only current executive figure with the requisite commercial experience, while at the same time the company would retain a subsidiary or “Club Board” to ensure the continuation of Celtic’s “tradi-ions, spirit and values”, of which some of the other existing directors, alongside ex-players and prominent supporters, could expect to be a part. Smith also invited anyone with finance, including the various rebel factions, to invest, but he warned that they would not be able to prevent any members of the traditional families who wished to remain involved with Celtic from having a continuing role in the club’s affairs.

Board’s last stand

To many it seemed that Smith and his colleagues were asking McCann and some of the other parties interested in Celtic, such as the group fronted by retail tycoon Gerald Weisfeld, to put their money in without seeing very much in return. In addition to the financial restructuring of the company, Smith also announced that the Cambuslang project, which it seemed to the outside world had almost been put into hibernation over the previous two years, would be resuscitated, with £20m “cornerstone funding already in place” for the new stadium facility, underwritten by a Swiss merchant bank named Gefinor, a distinctly low- profile investment house with offices in Geneva, London and Lebanon.

The problem with all of this – the main one anyway – was that Gefinor themselves didn’t seem to know very much about it. Their small office in London was attended only by a broken answerphone machine and when sceptical hacks tried to do a bit more digging, they were met by a wall of silence. The collapse, or more accurately, the non-existence of the arrangement with Gefinor was the final nail in the board’s coffin, and with the success of the organised boycott a few days later, matters now moved forward relatively quickly.

Immediately following Smith’s dramatic press conference on the Friday, the bank’s head Rowland Mitchell attended a board meeting at Celtic Park, where he demanded personal guarantees from the directors, including their shareholdings, as collateral for the club’s debt. At Michael Kelly’s insistence, however, after being brought up to speed with the board’s hastily revealed plans, Mitchell then agreed to take a look at the detail in the new proposals over the weekend, in particular at the rights issue, which seemed to represent the only viable means of servicing the overdraft. The following week, however, Mitchell returned seemingly unimpressed and informed the board that his position remained unchanged.

High-noon ultimatum

Time was now running out for the incumbent directors. On Thursday, March 3 an emergency summit was held between Mitchell and the Celtic board, but chairman Kevin Kelly took along only Tom Grant, James Farrell and Jack McGinn to the meeting. With four of the seven board members in attendance, a deliberate majority on the chairman’s part, Mitchell spelled out the reality of the situation; Celtic were about to go bust and he gave the directors until 12 noon the following day to come up with £1m or the receivers would be sent in.

The chairman and his colleagues were shocked; they apparently had no idea that the club was so imperilled, and Kelly’s reaction was to sanction the summary dismissals of finance director David Smith and club secretary Christopher White on the grounds that they had misrepresented the club’s financial position to the board. The four directors in attendance also immediately gave notice of their approval of Fergus McCann’s investment plans, in accordance with the terms proposed by the rebels at the previous November’s EGM, which allowed Mitchell to stipulate a further demand for a “£5m cash collateralised guarantee which will be made available once Mr Fergus McCann has reached the UK and has had a chance to apprise himself of the situation”.

In return, with a clear majority of the board in favour, the bank agreed to deal exclusively with McCann and his allies, precluding the possibility of the other directors selling their shares to the Weisfeld group, who at the time were also still vying for control of the club. Weisfeld was head of a consortium involving his step-son Michael MacDonald and the Glasgow businessman Willie Haughey, who believed right up until the board’s final hours that they had struck a deal to take over a controlling interest in Celtic.

Directors White, Smith and Michael Kelly favoured Weisfeld as the ‘anyone but McCann’ candidate, who, unlike the Canadian at that stage, was still proposing to buy out the directors, offering £3.6m for their combined shares, while McCann was still maintaining his position, in his unmistakeable transatlantic twang, that the board members would not receive “one thin dime” as a result of the takeover transaction.

In the end, the notorious voting pact proved to be the undoing of the faction on the board who wished to proceed with the Weisfeld offer, because under the terms of the agreement, White and Smith first had to offer their holdings to the other signatories, including Kevin Kelly and Tom Grant. The chairman could therefore use his veto to block any transfer of shares to third parties, and consequently the deal with Weisfeld was prevented.

McCann arrives

Arriving at Brian Dempsey’s office in Glasgow by 9.30am on Friday, March 4, after flying in overnight from Phoenix, Arizona, a jet-lagged Fergus McCann began phoning around to see if the money he had wired from America, in accordance with the bank’s demands, had arrived in Glasgow, paperwork and all.

It seems that in the slow, pre-digital days of early 90s technology, McCann had arrived in Scotland in advance of his money and it took some time before confirmation came through that the funds had been cleared. McCann was then able to take his cheque for £1m round from the Clydesdale Bank in St Vincent Street, where he banked, to the Bank of Scotland’s office a few yards further up the road. After another lengthy round of paperwork was completed, the cheque was deposited in the Celtic account at 11.52am, eight minutes shy of Mitchell’s midday deadline.

Celtic had been saved, but the day’s events were still far from over. As McCann made his way over to Celtic Park, the media scrum outside the stadium, accompanied in the worsening weather by a growing number of jubilant and expectant fans, had developed into such a bun-fight that his BMW accidentally ran over a photographer’s foot. After pausing only to tell reporters that the financial position of the club had been secured, McCann and his team of lawyers then settled in with the last remaining directors, who were all put in separate rooms, to negotiate the terms of their resignations and the transfer of their shares to the club’s new owners.

In the end, McCann relented on his “one thin dime” vow to force the directors to relinquish their shares for a nominal sum and, in return for their resignations, he offered the departing executives a pot of money totalling £1.4m as an “entry price” for them to share among themselves as they saw fit. David Smith agreed to take a loss on his earlier purchase of £250,000 worth of shares from Michael Kelly, but in addition to the figure which he had previously received from his colleague, Kelly, the last to agree and holding out for the best price even at the expense of some of his other extended family members, eventually secured £300 per share for his holdings and he walked away, including his wife and children’s share, with a further sum in excess of £200,000.

“The game is over, the rebels have won”

Around tea time, former banker Dominic Keane emerged from the stadium to confirm that he had been co-opted on to the club’s new-look board, with Fergus McCann, the new CEO-in-waiting, also replacing White, Smith and Michael Kelly as directors. The nature of the negotiations, ensuring that the takeover was legally binding and watertight, meant that the evening dragged on and it wasn’t until 10.45pm that Dempsey finally emerged from the ground to announce to the waiting and expectant crowd: “The game is over, the rebels have won.”

It would be the start not so much of a new chapter in Celtic’s history, as of an entirely new volume. There was the first 106 years of Celtic before McCann’s arrival and intervention; and then there was everything else which has come, and continues to come, since.

This article first appeared in Issue 14 which was published in December 2019.

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