Broke Vladimir Romanov in ‘taxi driver’ plan
Vladimir Romanov claims he could be forced to return to his previous job as a taxi driver after losing his £250 million fortune in the collapse of Ukio Bankas.
• Vladimir Romanov claims he has lost his £250 million fortune
• Romanov’s assets have been seized by Lithuanian authorities
The Hearts owner made the admission in a television interview, saying he has been left virtually penniless after the Lithuanian authorities seized his assets and his bank was put into administration.
The 66-year-old Russian said he had been forced to borrow cash from friends and admitted he might have to go back to driving taxis.
Mr Romanov has been dogged by controversy since buying the Tynecastle side in October 2005, including the failure to pay players and staff on time. He owns 64.9 per cent of bank Ukio Bankas, where operations have been suspended by the central Bank of Lithuania.
“On the day the bank went into administration, the authorities froze all my bank cards and accounts,” he said in an interview with the Lithuanian television station LNK, due to be broadcast on Monday.
“All that I had left was the money I had in my pocket. I was forced to borrow money from friends and immediately sell my property to raise funds.
“As for what I will do next, I think I will become a taxi driver. Also, I worked once as an electrician so I could go back to that.”
Before establishing his business empire in Lithuania, Mr Romanov was a taxi driver, selling bootleg records from the back of his cab.
He has spoken of losing tens of millions of pounds on his sporting investments.
Hearts began having severe financial problems in late 2011, when it was unable to pay players’ wages on time. The club has only recently settled the outstanding balance on a £450,000 tax bill which threatened to send it into administration. It owes £22.4m to an investment group with links to Ukio.
Mr Romanov’s banking empire plunged into administration last month, piling on the pressure as he looks to sell the Tynecastle side, and Zalgiris – his basketball team in Kaunas, the country’s second city.
Ukio Bankas is in the process of being broken up by financial authorities in Lithuania after being declared insolvent and having its banking licence removed.
Assets judged to be “good” are being sold to its national rival Siauliu Bankas, while the “bad” parts will be declared bankrupt.
“Last season, Zalgiris cost me £30m,” Mr Romanov said in an interview last July. “I wouldn’t recommend to anyone to own a sports club, it’s a useless thing.”
He was estimated to have a net worth at one stage of £250m, but recent reports placed his personal fortune at £42m.
Raimondas Kuodis, vice-chairman of the Bank of Lithuania, last month quoted “official information” about the Hearts owner’s liabilities, which are thought to be in the region of £58m, surpassing his total wealth.
Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas has insisted the club was unlikely to be affected by the bank crisis as its £22.4m debt is with Ukio Banko Investicine Grupe, a separate firm whose diverse investments also include mining.
Steven Kilgour, secretary of the Federation of Hearts Supporters Clubs, said fans were focused on supporting Foundation of Hearts, a consortium which is bidding to take over the club.
He said: “I’d find it very difficult to imagine Romanov has not set money aside. He is in trouble, though, and that’s why we worry about Hearts and the domino effect that the collapse of Ukio could have on us.”
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