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A lifelong Celtic supporter, Willie Haughey was invited by Fergus McCann to invest in Celtic following McCann's take-over of the club. Haughey invested £500,000 and was given a seat as a non-executive director on the Board. Willie was chairman of City Refrigeration Holdings which he had founded in 1985 and developed into a multi-million pound company. A self-made millionaire he was born in 1956 and raised in the Gorbals. He left school at 15 with no qualifications. In 2007 he was awarded an OBE for his philanthropic work.
On the evening of 28/4/97 Peter McLean, Celtic PR man gave a press statement out which tersely stated that regretfully Mr Haughey had resigned his position as a member of the Board of Celtic plc. The short statement showed little of the happenings behind the scenes but they gradually played out over the next few days. Willie himself stated that he had not resigned and that the statement to the Press followed a meeting between himself, Fergus McCann and a lawyer for the club that evening. It was alleged by McCann that Haughey had made statements and leaked information on Celtic matters, thought to be his support for Tommy Burns, to a public meeting. Despite his denial of these allegations, Celtic issued a second statement which suggested that lawyers acting for Mr Haughey had tended his resignation.
The situation, rather than drawing to a polite and quiet closure continued to develop. On 30/4/97 the club issued another statement on behalf of non-executive director Michael McDonald. This stated that he was sad to see Haughey leave but that he, Michael McDonald, personally had no intention of resigning from the Board and that he accepted the position of the club. The reason to this rush of statements on resignation might have had less to do with Tommy Burns' position anfd more to do with discussions on the future of McCann's share holding and plans that Dermot Desmond had to become the principal share holder. This was confidential information and information that could affect the markets and club valuation and was extremely sensitive.
Events continued to gather pace. The same night that Michael McDonald had issued his statement through the club, Dominic Keane, the club secretary, resigned after a 4 hour meeting with other members of the board. Keane was said to be furious at the manner in which Haughey had been removed from the Board. Dominic Keane's departure was a more serious matter given his executive role and his representation of Celtic at SFA meetings. Keane refused to discuss the matter further publicly however McCann was drawn into a comment. He said, "I understand he was not in agreement with the process by which Mr Haughey had to be removed. However, the corporate structure of Celtic required the decision of the plc board, which was unanimous and reflected their responsibilities to all shareholders and supporters."
This was revealing in that there appeared to be a split within the plc and the non-executive sides of the Board, with the plc's directorate retaining complete confidence in McCann and his actions.
"They support my position as managing director and majority shareholder that it is in the interests of all parties, including Mr Haughey, that the specific reasons for that decision remain confidential to those who made it," he stated.
On the 2/5/97, following a meeting between Fergus McCann and Tommy Burns, Burns was sacked as manager of the club after refusing to move sideways to allow a new manager to be appointed.
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