HEARTS owner Vladimir Rom-anov has said he does not care how much the football club is sold for following the collapse of his banking empire and loss of his personal fortune.
The Russian businessman – who previously demanded £50 million for the Edinburgh club – has admitted he does not expect to make any profit from the sale.
The 66-year-old also confirmed that his businesses, once valued at about £250m, have been lost in their entirety due to the collapse of Lithuanian lender Ukio Bankas. “All of our savings, all our companies, all of our activities were all in the bank,” he said. “We have lost it.”
Mr Romanov claims to have spent around £60m on the Tynecastle side since buying it in October 2005, but now plans to sell control of the club to supporters. Seven groups have been involved in recent negotiations.
“We have a plan to sell 51 per cent of the club to the fans,” he explained. “Maybe it won’t happen straight away, but we would like to realise it.”
It has been suggested the club could change hands for as little as £5m, although Mr Romanov refused to be drawn on an asking price. “I don’t care about the price,” he said. “It will be up to the administration of the club to calculate the share price.
“Before, the club always had losses but now they are making a tiny profit and now it does not require an injection of money.”
Operations of Ukio Bankas, in which Mr Romanov has a 64.9 per cent stake, have been suspended by the central Bank of Lithuania for taking “unnecessary risks”.
Lord Foulkes, the Labour peer and former chairman of Hearts, said last night that prospective buyers still needed more clarity as to the situation at the club.
“He is being more realistic about the sale of the club, given what has transpired with Ukio and UBIG (Ukio Banko Investicine Grupe) in recent weeks, and I think he’s right to be realistic.
“I don’t think there are a lot of people rushing to make offers, so he has to be. The fact he has said this, however, may encourage further interest which was absent before.
“There are still a number of things to resolve. One is whether the debt, all of it, or part, will be passed on to the new owners.
“The second is ownership of the ground. Any potential buyers, whether an individual, a business or a consortium of fans, would want to have ownership of the ground, and some kind of deal on the debt.
“To my knowledge [Hearts director] Sergejus Fedotovas had assumed that some kind of deal would be done over the summer.
“By the summer, the revenue and expenditure of the club will be a lot better.”
Hearts, which is controlled by UBIG, a separate firm with links to Ukio, has had its own problems since Romanov withdrew financial support last year.
In December, it had to appeal to its supporters through a share issue after being handed a winding-up order by HMRC over a £1.75m unpaid tax bill.
It is also £22.4m in debt to UBIG, according to the latest published accounts.
A permanent administrator for Ukio is expected to be announced within weeks, however, it may take between
six and 12 months for the new administrator to decide what will happen with the portion of the club’s debt under their control.
Despite the loss of his fortune, Mr Romanov insisted he has “no regrets” about his time at Tynecastle, and hopes fans remember their successes under his tenure.
“I hope the fans remember that if you believe, if you go for it then everything is possible.”