BRIAN Kennedy and The Blue Knights will pull out of the Rangers takeover process unless they are given preferred bidders status by noon today.
Kennedy and the Knights' legal team told administrators Duff & Phelps that the ultimatum had to be set because work on delivering a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) would have to start this weekend, or else there would not be enough time to deliver it before the club's money runs out in a few weeks' time.
Duff and Phelps claim to be still evaluating three bids. One of those is from a London-based consortium, said to include figures with English Premier League experience, which current owner Craig Whyte is believed to favour.
That consortium and Kennedy/The Blue Knights want to save Rangers via a CVA. A Far East consortium, including Singaporean businessman Bill Ng, would try to take them out of administration via a newco. One other party has also been in contact with the administrators.
Although Sale Sharks owner Kennedy has always said he would be there to save Rangers if no other bidder remained, he has become exasperated by Duff & Phelps as the club approaches the end of its third full month in administration. Joint administrator Paul Clark was told yesterday that unless preferred bidder status was granted today Kennedy and The Blue Knights would have no choice but to remove their offer.
Kennedy is also unhappy with comments made by administrator, David Whitehouse, about Knights' spokesman Paul Murray. Murray said his consortium had been told their bid met the administrators' demands, only for that to be denied by Whitehouse.
"For David Whitehouse to say otherwise is a slur on the character of Paul Murray," said Kennedy. "Paul doesn't tell lies."
In another chaotic day in the Rangers saga, former Ibrox manager Graeme Souness denied reports he had been approached to front one of the takeover bids and would not be interested in doing so, despite one of the interested parties making it known he was wanted as a figurehead.
Walter Smith has been similarly held up as a possible front man for one of the bidders.
Whyte has confirmed he is prepared to transfer his 85.3% shareholding to two of the rival bidders – one of which is understood to be the London-based consortium, and the other Kennedy – and will do so for only £1.
Last night joint administrator Paul Clark said: "We have continued discussions today with the parties remaining in the bidding process and good progress has been made.
"We can also confirm that Craig Whyte has confirmed that he will transfer his shareholding to two of the parties and has indicated he would not be an impediment to a sale of the club.
"We will issue a further update tomorrow and can say that every effort is being made to conclude the sale of the club as quickly as possible."
Kennedy has held talks with Whyte about securing his shares but would not confirm whether an agreement had been reached.
"I won't comment on Craig Whyte's shares," he said. "I have a confidentiality agreement."
Kennedy has stressed he would only consider a deal that involved exiting administration via a CVA.
He said: "Financially, a newco doesn't work unless you can write a cheque for £35m to compensate for the absence of European football. We would only contemplate a CVA."
Rumours that Peter Kenyon was involved in the consortium which aims to take over Whyte's shares were denied by the former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive.
He said: "People use my name a lot but it is news to me. I've not had any discussions."
Rangers' appeal against a one-year transfer embargo will be heard by the SFA next week.