Having researched the background to the feud between Alex Ferguson and the BBC, it has become pretty clear that Alex Ferguson may well have created this feud as a smokescreen to obscure our view of the real dirt. They key to the whole affair lies in a racehorse, the Rock of Gibraltar.
Firstly let's go back a few years to 2001 when John Magnier and JP McManus first began buying shares in Manchester United. Alex Ferguson was friendly with these men and was a keen dabbler in horse racing. At around the same time the racehorse, the Rock of Gibraltar, was carving out a reputation as one of the best around. Interestingly the 'gift' of 50% of the Rock to Alex Ferguson occurred at around the very same time that Magnier and McManus began acquiring their first shares in Manchester United. The fact that a senior manager in a PLC should be accepting such a large gift from a major shareholder is dubious in itself.
Whatever the truth behind the Rock, Ferguson was the 50% registered owner and as the horse's value skyrocketed with his success, it became clear that the potential stud value of the Rock would be huge (up to 10million/year). Whether Ferguson had any claim to the stud money was the root of the long running and ugly dispute which would ultimately see Ferguson sue Magnier for 50% of the stud fees.
There is some more interesting background to this affair. Magnier and McManus (via Cubic Expression Ltd) acquired another big chunk of Manchester United from BSkyB; Murdoch's company had their takeover of MUFC blocked which then resulted in them relinquishing their 9.9% stake to the Irishmen. It would therefore appear that Magnier and McManus are on pretty decent terms with Mr Murdoch, no wonder the Murdoch media empire has been so quiet on the Magnier/Ferguson/BBC saga.
Thus the informal gift of the Rock led to a dispute which turned friends into bitter enemies. Magnier was not going to give in easily, he vigorously denied Ferguson's claims and immediately hired Kroll Inc, Wall Street's so called 'private eye', to begin the digging into Ferguson's dodgy dealings. Kroll dug the dirt and this led to the infamous '99 questions' for the board. These 99 questions exposed Alex Ferguson and his son, Jason, as well as casting doubt over the honesty of 13 Manchester United transfers.
As the ante was upped by Magnier, Ferguson realised he was out of his depth and buckled by accepting a tiny settlement fee, of note this was significantly less than he had previously been offered to keep things away from a court. This was in March 2004, a key fact is that this was two months before the BBC's program that detailed some of Magnier's infamous 99 questions.
Ferguson was clearly rather scared that his dirty linen was to be aired in public. This was because neither Magnier or McManus had a seat on the board, meaning that they could at any point have called an emergency general meeting to discuss the 99 questions in front of all shareholders. Ferguson clearly had a lot to hide, he had bitten off more than he could chew in taking on Magnier, Magnier had found out things that Ferguson didn't want to see the light of day, Ferguson didn't want the 99 questions to be made public and he quickly dropped the lawsuit.
The BBC program was actually a bit of a damp squib, they were just feeding off Manchester United's internal review which had been forced upon the club by Magnier's 99 questions. Even the club's own internal review found significant problems and irregularities in numerous transfers, as well as breaches of FIFA rules. The release of this internal review was moved forward to reduce the impact of the BBC program 'Ferguson and son' which was initially due to precede it.
In reality Ferguson is probably deflecting anger towards the BBC because he is still fuming that he was completely outmanoeuvred by John Magnier. A man that is used to bullying people into accepting his way was bullied into submission by a more powerful man and made to look very foolish in the process. Alex Ferguson came very close to losing his job in the process, he was also very close to having all his dirty linen washed in public. Magnier and McManus walked away with a huge profit, selling their stake to Malcolm Glazer in 2005.
The wonderful irony of this whole affair is that so much rage is now being directed at people who do not deserve it. Firstly Ferguson's rage with the BBC is completely misplaced, he should be looking long and hard at his own dodgy dealings, he also should never have taken on John Magnier and the muck raking would never have happened. Secondly Manchester United fans direct so much rage towards the Glazers when it is likely if it were not for Alex Ferguson's lawsuit then they would have far more benevolent dictators in charge, it is Alex Ferguson's greed that is really to blame, still it is easier to be angry with anyone other than your beloved bully of a manager.
This story really does have it all, blackmail, dodgy dealings, corruption, horseracing and football. Strangely the Premier League, the FA and FIFA have never looked into the dirt that Magnier exposed at Old Trafford. It is likely that the 99 questions and Kroll's investigative findings have been locked in a safe somewhere in Ireland, just in case in the not too distant future someone needs reminding who their daddy is.