THE chairman of a Scots consortium vying to end Vladimir Romanov’s stranglehold on Hearts has ruled out working with rival bidder Angelo Massone after the businessman entered the fray with a £4.5 million offer.
Alex Mackie, from Foundation of Hearts (FOH), poured scorn on suggestions he could work alongside the former Livingston owner saying he would “not look to have any dealings” with his syndicate.
The multi-million-pound bid by Mr Massone, who brought Livingston to the brink of extinction during his 12-month reign which ended in the summer of 2009, is thought to be around ten times the FOH offer rejected by Hearts directors on Tuesday and is reportedly conditioned on Hearts being delivered debt and liability free.
Mr Massone, 41, offered to pool resources with FOH but Alex Mackie poured cold water on the plans. “We did not know anything about this interest, and we certainly would not look to have any dealings with them,” he said.
“A relationship with Mr Massone and his group is not something we would see as an appropriate next step.”
He added: “Our focus is making the Foundation of Hearts into a legitimate vehicle for fan ownership. To that end, we do not believe working with Angelo Massone’s consortium would be a positive move.
“The first we heard of the bid was through the media on Friday, so I have been slightly taken aback. It is a development which I believe is very concerning, as a supporter of the club and as someone who has aspirations to bring fan ownership to Hearts.”
Hearts are understood to be mulling over the Massone bid – which was submitted in writing through his lawyers – and have not yet contacted the Italian syndicate with their response.
Speaking to the News, Mr Massone said he felt “confident” about the bid and outlined his strategy for Hearts which he said would put supporters at the centre of the club’s management structure.
“The real project is to save the club and after this in long-term – perhaps three or five years from now – give the club 100 per cent to the supporters. If Mr Romanov accepts our offer we will gift part of our shares to supporters and create a democratic board with supporters on it.”
He added: “The £4.5m offer is money from my investors – we don’t want any money from supporters but to work with supporters.
“I think we’ve made a fantastic offer. It is good money at this moment for Scottish football.”
When asked about his tumultuous ownership of Livingston, which saw the club relegated to Division Three, Mr Massone said: “What’s happened has passed and in time the truth will come out. Now I’m focused on Hearts and trying to save them from liquidation.”
The former Livingston chief said his consortium would invest in youth development and bring quality international players to the team. He also said the club would live within its means – spending 80p in the pound.
“We want to be involved in this but not without the supporters – that is really important. If the organisation Supporters Direct can’t trust my project I will not buy the club.”
A source close to FOH said: “We have been very clear on the ethical position, integrity and transparency and the core values of Hearts.
“The Massone thing kind of goes against the grain on that and [working together] is probably not a go-er.”
Under his tenure, Livingston were placed in administration due to unpaid debts to West Lothian Council, from whom they rent Almondvale, in July 2009, following months of turmoil and embarrassment, including electricity being cut off to the club due to arrears to their power company.
Meanwhile, staff at the Polwarth Tavern on Yeaman Place are today raising funds for cash-strapped Hearts by collecting sponsorship to paint the pub maroon. The money-spinning event, inspired by Ian Black’s infamous T-shirt, is part of a full programme of activities at the pub aimed at boosting Hearts’ fortunes.
WHAT HEARTS MEAN TO ME
CONNOR Preston has been a self-confessed dedicated Jambos fan all his life and a season ticket holder for the past decade.
The student at Edinburgh College, who lives in Drumbrae, sits in the Wheatfield Stand at Tynecastle.
The 19-year-old admitted he saw the financial crisis which has gripped the club coming.
“I never thought it was coming this quickly, but it did,” he said. “My initial reaction was I’ll need to fill out my share application and buy some shares.
“I think the fans raising £250,000 within a week was a mammoth achievement. We all really pulled together.
“There’s been loads of divisions in the support under the Romanov regime but I think this has really helped bring everyone together.
“We’re a club united now and I love it.”