FOUNDATION of Hearts chairman Ian Murray MP is hopeful a “massive” week for the embattled Tynecastle club will begin today with Ubig finally being declared bankrupt.
The ruling had been due to be made last Thursday, but a third successive delay to proceedings in Lithuania meant a frustrating wait for the fans’ group, who are preferred bidders for the club, and administrators BDO.
A hearing is now expected to take place at Kaunas District Court today which will see the fallen investment giants – who hold around 50 per cent of the shares in Hearts as well as £8.2million of their total £28.4m debt – declared bankrupt.
That will allow BDO to begin the process of negotiating with whichever insolvency practitioner is appointed to run Ubig’s affairs; a pivotal step as they work towards a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).
They have already been boosted by last week’s news that Ukio Bankas – the club’s largest creditor with £15.5m, as well as a 29.9 per cent shareholding and security a over Tynecastle Stadium –have agreed in principle to back a CVA. Murray is praying the meeting goes ahead, insisting the pattern of delays in Lithuania could become a concern.
“We have lost a few days because of the delay, but as long as the hearing does take place at the beginning of this week then we are relatively content,” said the MP for Edinburgh South. “But if it is not dealt with then we will be getting increasingly concerned it’s been dragging out too long. The court have been fairly clear that it has just been an issue regarding being able to get a judge to hear the case – there’s no conspiracy theory, it is just frustrating more than anything else.
“To build yourself up to a decision being made, and then it is postponed, is frustrating. And I am sure it is worse for the fans, who are desperate for information. The fear is that it drags on any longer than this week.”
Focus will quickly shift from financial matters in Lithuania to Easter Road, with Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final tie against Hibs looming large for Gary Locke’s struggling side. Murray added: “We could be sitting here next week with the ownership situation looking clearer after a decision on Ubig, and in the semi-final of the League Cup. So it could be a massive week. But our focus is on securing the ownership of the club, and we leave the football matters in the very capable hands of the coaching staff.”
Hibs defender Michael Nelson, meanwhile, is facing an extended spell on the sidelines after having two metal plates inserted during surgery on a cheekbone that was fractured in three places. In an interesting twist on the claims of Celtic manager Neil Lennon that Hibs had been guilty of “shocking”, “reckless” and “rugby-esque” tackles when the teams clashed just over a week ago, Nelson sustained the gruesome injury in the closing seconds of the 1-1 draw at Easter Road. Initial x-rays on the 33-year-old proved inconclusive but further tests highlighted three breaks and the need for an operation.
Nelson was forced to sit out Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at home to Aberdeen, when James McPake took is place, and will again be absent for the Hearts clash. He said on social media: “Well, that black eye turned into three fractures, an operation and two metal plates in my cheekbone. Out for a while unfortunately. Not sure yet (how long). Just have to see how I heal.”