ANN Budge has written to the 55,000 Hearts supporters on the club’s database to say she will do everything in her power to restore financial stability to Tynecastle – and to emphasise that she will only succeed with the continued backing of the fans.
Unusually for a self-made millionaire, the IT entrepreneur has also stressed that her goal, as a leading member of the Foundation of Hearts, is to ensure that the club is freed from private ownership.
As was announced last week, Budge is the sole director of Bidco, the Foundation’s takeover vehicle that will be used to buy Hearts, who are in administration. Currently titled the executive chairwoman designate of the club, she is financing the purchase with £2.5million of her own money, none of which will be returned to her in the first two years following the completion of the takeover.
“We all know the task ahead,” her email began. “Firstly, to ensure that the club survives; secondly to ensure it is re-stabilised financially, with the strongest possible foundations to ensure its future. These are the tasks I am offering to take on; but I will not succeed without your continued support. My task, as I see it, is to ensure that when I hand the club over to you, the supporters, I will be handing over a club in good shape and with sufficient resources to face the challenges of the future. To achieve this, the club needs investment over the next two years to stabilise and then build a solid financial base.
“Some of you are asking how long you might be asked to contribute. Right now, the club needs your financial support to see us through the next two years. Thereafter your contributions are required to secure supporter ownership. Beyond that, and once ownership passes to the fans, it will be for you, the supporters, to agree the financial priorities of your club. To all the supporters who are helping the club, either by attending games, contributing to the Foundation of Hearts, buying merchandise, fund-raising – the list goes on – I thank you. It has been said many times over the last few months, but it is absolutely true that without this support we would not be here today.
“To those of you who have already pledged, I thank you. You have started to build the cash reserves to enable fans ownership to become a reality, which will ultimately put an end to private ownership of our club. I will do my part to the best of my ability. Thank you, in advance, for continuing to do yours.”
The Foundation, which now has nearly 8,000 monthly contributors, is aware that a significant proportion of money raised in the first two years will be needed for repairs and renovations at Tynecastle, in addition to the primary task of maintaining a budget for the squad. It is also planned to accumulate a reasonable cash reserve to ensure the smooth running of the club, and to avoid problems such as the failure to pay salaries on time that became regular occurrences during the latter years of Vladimir Romanov’s ownership. The repayment of Budge’s loan is planned to start in year three – and only when it is complete will supporters’ control finally be achieved.
Among her many activities preparatory to ownership, Budge is committed to clearing up the uncertainty about the 4,000 people who bought shares in late 2012 following Romanov’s plea for emergency funding. Full documentation about the share issue, including details of many buyers, has yet to be unearthed.
The Foundation is still waiting to learn when a creditors’ meeting will be held in Lithuania to determine the sale of the shares that will give it a majority stake in Hearts. Thirty days’ notice is required before that meeting can take place.
Meanwhile, former Hearts youngster Adam King insists his move to Swansea has already made him a better player after netting on his home debut for their under-21 side.
The 18-year-old made a £200,000 switch in January and scored the winning goal as the Swans’ youth side defeated Brentford 2-1 on Monday. King said: “I’m training with the first-team, which is making me a better player. It was brilliant to score on my home debut.”