Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov has reiterated his desire for the club’s supporters to become majority shareholders – but insists he will not walk away for nothing after eight years.
In a rare interview on the club’s official website, Romanov claimed he has no regrets about ploughing £60 million into Hearts – a figure that has helped the Tynecastle side clinch two Scottish Cups and split the Old Firm to reach the Champions League qualifiers.
Romanov is battling to save his business empire in Lithuania after Ukio Bankas was placed in administration and UBIG – the investment group that owes Hearts – had its assets frozen.
But he insists Hearts – whose own existence was placed in serious doubt earlier this season over an unpaid tax bill and £2m funding gap – is now running as a self-reliant company.
As supporters groups continue to discuss a potential takeover bid, Romanov, who has turned down offers of £450,000 and £4.5m from the Foundation of Hearts and former Livingston chairman Angelo Massone, respectively, said: “We have a plan basically to sell 51 per cent to fans. We agree that. Maybe we won’t realise that straight away, but we would like to realise that. I don’t know how fast it will happen, but our aim is to make it happen.
“To give it as a gift maybe not. When you buy something, when you put some effort in, you value it more, you appreciate it more. I don’t care about the price. It is the club that will advise the price per share. It has to make sense according to the club’s situation. The club is surviving on its own. It is covering its own expenses. It’s working. Before the club had losses, but now the club is making a tiny profit.”
Romanov prevented the sale of Tynecastle when he swept into power in 2005 but the club’s debt is back to around £20m – as it was when he arrived – following a high of £36m.
He added: “I have no regrets. I have memories for a lifetime. Destiny has rewarded me for the money I have spent. It rewarded me for what I can be proud of. If I would have another £60m, I would invest another £60m.
“You need to live this life and appreciate what is happening. You are investing in the culture of the country, where support plays a very important role in this country. And show me one more country in the world like this. Maybe Brazil or Argentina can compare.
“The two Scottish Cups. It is very important. I don’t know if the fans will remember me or not. But I think they will remember these moments that if you believe, if you go for it, everything is possible.”