Rangers in crisis: Bill Miller’s US staff baffled by their boss’ Ibrox bid.. but claim he’s a safe pair of hands
May 8 2012 Exclusive by Mark McGivern in Tennessee
RANGERS were the talk of the town yesterday – in would-be saviour Bill Miller’s Tennessee base.
But workers at Miller’s truck plant admitted they were puzzled about why their boss would want to buy a football team thousands of miles away.
Few people in Tennessee had even heard of Rangers this time last week.
ut now Miller’s interest in the club has emerged, the takeover is a hot topic in Chattanooga, where he has his HQ, and nearby Ooltewah, home to his wrecking truck factory.
Corey Coach, who has worked on the assembly line for eight years, said: “Will he be the saviour of Rangers? Heck, I don’t know that but if he does for them what he did here they will be doing OK.
“He spent $13 million on new plant and the company is in good hands.
“There was a story in the TV news about the Rangers stuff and everyone has been talking about it the past couple of days.
“It seems that the Rangers are pretty much like the New York Mets in Scottish terms, so they must be a big deal over in Scotland.
“We all wonder what the heck got him into buying a soccer team in Scotland.
“It’s a real mystery and we’ve all been wondering about it.”
Corey, 39, added that he believed that Rangers would be in safe hands with Miller.
He said: “You will probably find it difficult to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate Bill Miller. He pays competitive wages and he looks after his staff.
“He is the kind of guy who will chat to anyone. He is laid-back and I’d say he’s a decent guy.”
Welder Steve Crumb, 37, said there was a buzz about Miller’s reported plans.
Steve, who has worked in the plant for two years, said: “The Millers are really nice people and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to go in there and do anything bad with such a big soccer club.
“I think he’d want to make a real success of it.
“He built this place up pretty good, so maybe he could do the same over there.
“I hear the Rangers people might be coming over to talk to Mr Miller. I hope it all goes well.”
Michael Johnson, 54, who handles shipping for the trucks, added that it was all a “big mystery”. He said: “It’s given us all something to talk about.”
As the Record spoke to the workers in Ooltewah, though, there was no official comment from Miller’s HQ – and a gagging order was suddenly imposed on the curious staff.
There was also silence back in Scotland from SPL chiefs, who had been due to hold a press conference yesterday to reveal what sanctions Rangers could expect.
Instead, after a five-hour meeting at Hampden, they announced they had adjourned the vote on financial fair play sanctions until May 30.
New rules would see greater penalties for clubs in administration and sanctions on clubs who undergo an “insolvency transfer”, which would see them docked 10 points for two seasons and 75per cent of their SPL income for three years.
Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston said the meeting yesterday, at which Rangers were not represented, did not have sufficient information available to reach a consensus.
Meanwhile, the Record were the first UK newspaper to visit Miller’s Tennessee HQ, hoping to hear for ourselves what might lie in store for Rangers.
Our man rolled up to the impressive 20-acre plant in Ooltewah, a down-at-heel industrial town a few miles north of Chattanooga. The facility features a production line that Miller ploughed $13 million into developing recently.
Nearly 500 of the company’s 2000 employees are based there, manufacturing wrecking trucks.
We made a formal request to speak to Miller’s son Will, who spearheads operations at the plant.
We were seeking just a few minutes of Miller jnr’s time, wondering if he’d repeat his father’s pledge to be in for the long haul in Rangers’ recovery.
No interview was forthcoming.
Despite us being in the Land of the Free, our man was asked to leave the premises. Immediately.
When we tried to speak to employees at the edge of the road, we were told that the grass verge was also a no-go zone.
One manager emerged from the offices again, this time accompanied by the firm’s head of security, who informed us the sheriff’s department was on its way.
Our man withdrew to the edge of the road, where he continued to speak to Miller’s employees about the ambitious plans afoot in Scotland.
By this time, the security team had issued a ban on talking to the Record and employees suddenly didn’t seem to want to discuss the issue that had been such a talking point around the plant.
Our man was soon heading back to the bright lights of Chattanooga.