published Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Bill Miller drops effort to buy Scottish soccer team

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    Bill Miller, founder of Miller Industries, poses in this file photo.
    Staff File Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Bill Miller, founder of Chattanooga-based Miller Industries, has withdrawn his bid to buy a top-tier Scottish soccer club facing bankruptcy.

Miller's $18.1 million bid was given preference to buy Rangers Football Club, but Miller withdrew his offer Tuesday, saying the club was in worse shape than he thought.

"As soon as I was announced as preferred bidder for Rangers, my team began to press ahead with our due diligence. Until then, information had been limited to what was made available in the Internet data room and questions addressed to the administrators and their staff," Miller said in a statement.

"Upon being named preferred bidder, discussions with Rangers staff started and discussions with all interested parties intensified," he said. "It became clear to me that preliminary information, discussions and analysis were, unfortunately, more optimistic than reality."

Miller also cited fan discontent over the team's potential purchase by an American as a factor in his decision.

With 1.5 million fans, the soccer club is one of the two most popular in Scotland, comparable to a top-tier NFL team.

But the club has been slammed with league penalties and saddled with more than $220 million in debt, rapidly sending it toward bankruptcy.

"I am deeply disappointed as I had considered the opportunity to bid for one of the most historic football clubs in the world, an honor and a privilege. I wish Rangers fans, supporters and employees my very best," he said. "You certainly deserve it."

Miller Industries employs 760 workers who make towing equipment. The company is based in Chattanooga and also operates out of Greeneville, Tenn.; Hermitage and Mercer, Pa.; Thetford, England; and Revigny, France.

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