Hopes that Heart of Midlothian can emerge from administration by the end of the year have been buoyed by the news that former majority shareholder Ukio Banko Investicine Grupe (Ubig) are set to be formally declared bankrupt.
A hearing is now scheduled to take place on 24 October at Kaunas District Court, during which it is expected that bankruptcy administrators will be placed in control of the firm’s assets.
The administration process at Hearts has been in limbo for several weeks because BDO, the financial experts in control at Tynecastle, are unable to negotiate with Ubig until administrators are appointed. BDO require Ubig’s 50 per cent shareholding in the club, along with Ukio Bankas’s 29.9 stake and the ownership of Tynecastle Stadium, if they are to oversee a successful company voluntary arrangement (CVA) and sell the club to the fans’ group Foundation of Hearts.
“The Court decided to re-open examination of the case, assign three judges and set the case hearing on October 24,” said Gintaris Adomonis of Valnetas UAB, who are overseeing the administration procedure at Ukio Bankas, to STV News last night.
“Nothing can be done to speed up the procedure and we need to wait for the final decision. We expect that the administrator to Ubig shall be appointed on 24th of October.”
Representatives from FoH were remaining cautiously optimistic last night following previous postponements of court dates. However, should the case proceed as planned in Lithuania, then it marks a hugely significant step in Hearts’ efforts to emerge from administration. “If it does happen, then it means that the assets of Ubig are able to be dealt with and the offer that is on the table on behalf of the Foundation in terms of 79.9 per cent of the club’s assets comes into play,” explained FoH chairman and Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray yesterday.
“Our offer is obviously conditional of getting the majority shareholding. Until the Ubig situation is resolved we are unable to determine the shape of the majority shareholding. Now that is looking like it will be resolved we can get on with talking about how we can get hold of it.”
“BDO did say at the start of the process ‘please be patient because it may take some time’,” he added. “They are experienced in this. As long as it is done on 24 October we are still on the timescale they set when they first started, which is around the end of the year.”
Meanwhile, Hearts assistant manager Billy Brown believes Jamie MacDonald should be considered for a Scotland call-up after an “exceptional” start to the season.
MacDonald has established himself as Tynecastle number one following Marian Kello’s departure in 2012, helping the Jambos to lift the Scottish Cup that summer and making his European bow the following season.
Hearts have been forced to battle relegation with a skeleton squad following their descent into administration and 15-point deduction in the close season, but Brown believes MacDonald has dealt with the increased workload admirably.
Asked whether MacDonald should be in contention for Gordon Strachan’s set-up, Brown said: “I’ve said that as well. For a consistency level I really don’t believe there are many better than Jamie,” said Brown. “It is just about continuing to perform well and impress.
“The goalkeeper position is absolutely vital, but particularly at Hearts. We have such a young team in front of the ’keeper and, I have to say, Jamie has done exceptionally well.”
Brown acknowledges that Allan McGregor is a worthy Scotland number one, but reckons MacDonald is worthy of consideration due to the limited pool of potential understudies to the Hull man.
Brown added: “Of course, Allan McGregor is number one and is the type of goalkeeper who could have played in any era – he is comfortable in a lot of aspects of the game. Which other Scottish goalkeeper is up there?”