ANN Budge will formally take control of Hearts on Monday after her £2.5 million deal for almost 80 per cent of the club’s shares was finally completed yesterday.
Confirmation of the sale and purchase agreement to the Edinburgh businesswoman came after no objections to her takeover were raised by creditors of UBIG, the Lithuanian banking group, during a 20-day cooling off period.
It effectively ends Hearts’ association with UBIG and Ukio Bankas, the companies used by Vladimir Romanov to fund his purchase of the club in 2005 and which held security over Tynecastle Stadium. Hearts are now on course to exit administration, which they entered last June with debts of £25m, before the start of next season once a Company Voluntary Arrangement with creditors is agreed.
“I am truly delighted to be able to confirm that I am now the proud majority shareholder in Hearts Football Club,” said Budge. “It has been a long, hard struggle to get to this point but together we have achieved our goal.
“The next few months – even years – won’t be easy as we work hard to rebuild our club. However, let’s not think about that today…let’s just enjoy! I have absolutely no doubt that together we will succeed.
“Thanks must go to everyone involved in helping us reach this milestone.
“Not only to those you all know about, but also to the teams of professional advisors who have helped us get this deal over the line…some of whom didn’t get to bed at all last night! I personally owe them a huge debt of thanks as indeed do all Hearts supporters.
“As the days and weeks unfold we will, of course, share our plans for the future. However, as you will all know, we are now into the process of making a formal offer for the remaining shares in the club and while that process is in train, there are some restrictions on how much we can say publicly. So…no press conferences yet, I’m afraid. However, in the meantime, enjoy the moment. This is a great day in the history of our club.”
The club’s administrators, BDO, confirmed that the relevant papers have been signed by all parties and the shares transferred to Bidco – the company of which Budge is the sole director – allowing the CVA to be implemented. It is intended that ownership of the club will be passed over to the Foundation of Hearts fans group within five years.
“BDO will continue behind the scenes for a few more weeks and it is planned we will exit from office before the start of the 2014-2015 football season with Hearts being managed by the new board of directors for the remaining duration of the administration,” said Hearts joint-administrator Bryan Jackson. “This is a great day for Ann, for the club, and for the fans who have stood by their team throughout a difficult year. There is no question that this has been a tough period for
all involved but, to their credit, the players, management and fans have remained steadfastly committed and loyal during a time which would have tested even the most ardent of supporters.
“I am very pleased for all involved that we have had a positive outcome to this administration. There have been times over the last year when it was not clear that we would get this result.
“There remain many challenges ahead for the club but it is clear that all involved remain resilient and determined to secure and maintain the great name of Heart of Midlothian for decades to come.”
It is believed Budge, 66, will become executive chairwoman on an unpaid basis. She is set to be joined on the new board by her business partner Eric Hogg and former Scottish Premier League chairman Robert Wilson. Ian Murray MP is also expected to join the board as the first representative of the Foundation of Hearts.
One of Budge’s first tasks will be to clarify the position of Hearts manager Gary Locke, his assistant Billy Brown and a clutch of first-team squad members who are out of contract this summer.