Chattanooga business owner Bill Miller moves closer to Scottish soccer deal

Chattanooga business owner Bill Miller moves closer to Scottish soccer deal

May 4th, 2012 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Bill Miller of Miller Industries Contributed Photo

• Who: Bill Miller, founder of Chattanooga-based Miller Industries

• What: The millionaire is the preferred bidder for the Rangers, a Scottish soccer team

• When: Bankruptcy trustees say the deal will close by the end of the season

• Why: The team, whose former owner is under investigation, faces more than $220 million in debt

Who is Bill Miller?:

• Raised: Detroit, father worked at an auto plant

• Education: Engineering degree at University of Ann Arbor, Mich.; MBA

• Age: 65

• Business reputation -- Turnaround artist

• Business offspring -- William G. Miller II, 33, current president of Miller Industries

• Key Chattanooga holdings -- Currently about 305,401 shares of Miller Industries, worth about $5 million. However, in March and April alone, Miller and his son have liquidated nearly $2.6 million in stock

Source: Miller Industries, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Yahoo Finance

Career:

• 1970s through 1987 -- served in various management positions for Bendix Corp., Neptune International Corp., Wheelabrator-Frye Inc. and The Signal Companies Inc., turning around troubled units within the companies

• 1987 -- took over Flow Measurement, finally leaving in 1994.

• 1990 -- Miller began assembling the companies that later would make up Miller Industries

• 1994 -- Miller left Flow Measurement to take over as chairman of Miller Industries. Prior to that, he served as chairman of Miller Group from August 1990 until May 1994.

• 1997 -- The company acquires more than 50 towing service companies to form RoadOne, a consolidated towing service company

• 1998 -- U.S. Department of Justice initiates antitrust investigation

• 2000 -- Investigation concludes

• 2002 -- Miller's son, William G. Miller II, joins the company.

• 2011 -- William Miller II takes over as president of Miller Industries, with his father remaining chairman. The company emerges from the recession, nearly doubling operating income from the year prior to $38 million.

• 2012 -- Bill Miller announces intention to buy Rangers soccer team

Source: BusinessWeek, Forbes

Bill Miller, founder of Chattanooga-based Miller Industries, has chosen Scotland for his next venture.

Bankruptcy trustees there have tentatively accepted Miller's $18.1 million bid to buy the bankrupt Rangers Football Club, one of the two most popular teams in Scotland with about 1.5 million fans, according to a news release.

Paul Clark, a trustee for the team, said in a statement that the group has accepted Miller's "unconditional bid" for the Rangers' business and assets, and will complete the deal by the end of the season.

"The bid submitted by Mr. Miller is substantially greater than any other proposal and provides the best return to creditors, a fundamental part of our duties as administrators," Clark said.

Clark said Miller's bid "avoids the need for liquidation," and explained that "Rangers Football Club will continue as the football club it has been for 140 years."

It is likely, Clark said, that Miller will create a new company that will shelter the assets of the Rangers while more than the $220 million in old debt is "cleaned up."

That's similar to how the Obama administration restructured General Motors and Chrysler during the recession.

"[Miller] sees this route as a necessity rather than a choice, and in our view this is an entirely workable strategy," Clark said. "Indeed to ensure the continuing operation of the club beyond the end of May, it is in our view a very compelling strategy."

The Rangers, a soccer team comparable to a top-tier NFL team in the U.S., faced an unknown fate before Miller emerged as a top bidder.

Miller has remained mum during the last several weeks of negotiation, prompting speculation in the Scottish press about his plans for the team. Miller, as an American, has faced some trepidation from Scottish fans who are fiercely protective of their club.

"Every move he makes will be scrutinized," said Mark McGivern, a reporter for The Daily Record.

But in a statement, he promised to reverse the team's fortunes and said he would not let the fans down. Miller's interest is in guiding the team toward a profitable future rather than an ignominious end, he said.

"It is a great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to buy Rangers Football Club," Miller said.

Miller said he plans to give the team a "fresh start," and promised not to let supporters suffer through another "travesty" like the bankruptcy and league penalties the team currently faces.

"We have worked hard to ensure that there is no loss of history, no loss of tradition and no liquidation of Rangers Football Club," Miller said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Miller made clear that he intends to move away from the type of fiscal management that led the team to hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

"Under my stewardship, Rangers will be managed with fiscal discipline such that the Club not only conforms to UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations but also such that Rangers will never have to suffer this kind of anguish again," Miller said. "From now on, Rangers will live within its means -- no excuses."