AN EDINBURGH shoe salesman has teamed up in a bid to buy Hearts with one of the men associated with a failed effort to take over Rangers last summer.
Bob Jamieson, who runs Kex Shoes Ltd, has joined forces with Jon Pritchett of Club 9 Sports, who was one of the key players in American businessman Bill Miller’s attempt to take control at Ibrox. Miller was named preferred bidder for Rangers before pulling out.
Jamieson, a former sponsor of Hearts, was involved in previous offers to buy the club both in 1999, when Chris Robinson was in control, and in 2011, when Vladimir Romanov first put it on the market. It is understood that Jamieson and Pritchett plan to move Hearts away from Tynecastle to an as-yet-unspecified site on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Hearts administrators BDO have named Friday as the deadline for offers to buy Hearts. The united supporters’ group Foundation of Hearts will submit a bid before the deadline, and has consistently refused to say what value it is placing on the club, which is £25million in debt.
Last night business sources poured doubt on initial claims that the Jamieson-Pritchett offer would be for £5m. Analysts suggest that such a sum would most likely include an amount designed to bridge a funding gap for the first three years – possibly as much as £3m.
The Foundation remains confident that it can make a realistic offer for the club, and that it has both the capital to buy Hearts and the revenue to sustain it through its pledging system. Around 5,000 supporters have now taken out direct debits to help fund the club should the Foundation’s bid be successful.
The Foundation has had informal talks with other groups which have expressed an interest in buying into Hearts, notably the one fronted by former Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Gordon McKie. Last week, when the McKie group said it did not have the money to make an offer on its own, the Foundation said it would not seek a formal alliance.
Although there has been some contact between Foundation members and Jamieson, who has been a well-known face around Tynecastle for some time, the fans’ group is unsure of the businessman’s intentions. Officially they maintain their line of being willing to deal with all other parties for the greater good of the club, but in private they are unsure why a Hearts supporter should decide now to launch a bid against the expressed wishes of every organised group of fans – all of whom have been united in the Foundation for several months.
A major concern of the Foundation is that other potential purchasers might be more interested in the land that the football stadium is built on than in helping the club.
Although the current value of Tynecastle is estimated at between £4.5m and £5.5m – well down on its 2004 valuation of £20m-plus – a site so close to the city centre could still be attractive to investors who would not need an immediate return on their money.
The Foundation is aware that the main stand at Tynecastle, in particular, is in serious need of renovation. But they remain committed to keeping Hearts playing there, and appear suspicious of anyone who has not given a similar commitment. There were concerns that the McKie group also favoured a new out-of-city home for the club.
Jamieson is listed as the sole director of HMFC Ltd, which has its registered office at 33 Bothwell Street in Glasgow. The company was incorporated on 10 June this year.
According to credit agency records, since the late 1980s Jamieson has been the director of 21 other companies which were subsequently dissolved. They include Boroughmuir (Sales) Limited, Bush Beverages Limited, Internet TV Limited and Superpuck Ltd. Jamieson was unavailable for comment last night.