GARY Locke has called on all Hearts supporters to unite behind the Foundation of Hearts now that it has been named as the preferred bidder for the club by administrators BDO.
Around 6,000 individuals have already pledged a monthly sum to help run the club should the Foundation gain control, and Locke urged those who have yet to commit themselves to now get involved.
“It’s great news, fantastic news,” the Hearts manager said after BDO announced they had given the Foundation preferred-bidder status.
“It now just means that, hopefully – and I know it’s a big ask again, because I know that fans have been unbelievable and it’s asking them to put their hands in their pockets once more – if they can all come on board it will certainly leave the club in a stronger position.
“We’ve still got a long way to go, but now we know that the Foundation is the preferred
bidder. They’re Hearts people and they’ve got the club at heart. That’s the news that myself and all the staff and playing staff were looking forward to hearing. It’s a big day for the football club and it’s a day that now we can hopefully move forward.”
Angelo Massone’s Five Stars Football Ltd was the only other remaining bidder but neither provided proof of funds for its offer nor conducted due diligence. BDO therefore opted to rule out Massone and appoint the FoH as preferred bidders after consultation with the administrators of Ukio Bankas, which owns almost 30 per cent of the club’s shares and is owed £15million. The announcement yesterday does not commit Ukio to agreeing to a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), but it does indicate an acceptance that the Foundation is the only credible bidder.
“The naming of a preferred bidder is the next step in the process of selling the club,” said Bryan Jackson of BDO.
“It allows us to work with one party around which everyone can rally. In doing so, we maximise the prospects of agreeing a sale price that is acceptable to the administrator of Ukio Bankas, and securing the necessary consent and ownership for FoH.
“This reflects our belief that FoH is a credible bidder for the club. However, we all still have a lot of work to do to demonstrate to the major creditors that the bid can offer them the best possible outcome. Let’s not get carried away – now is the time for everyone to get behind FoH to make this bid work.
“This is a positive development, but does not guarantee that a CVA will be successful. That will require a considerable combined effort from FoH and BDO to ensure that all interested parties are satisfied. At the moment we cannot put a timescale on the process as a number of negotiations with various parties still need to take place and we are waiting for the appointment of administrators to Ubig [who own 50 per cent of the shares and are Hearts’ second biggest creditors] to be ratified. However, we can ensure that, collectively, we make as much progress as possible on our side so we are able to finalise the matter quickly once the opportunity presents itself.”
The Foundation will now have access to every detail of the club’s finances, including contractual agreements. That will help it fine-tune its plans for running the club should it take over, while the hoped-for increase in pledges will allow it to expand its monthly budget. The drawing down of direct debits is due to start next month.
FoH chairman Ian Murray said: “This is an important day in the pathway towards putting Heart of Midlothian back on its feet.
“We are proud that the bid backed by the Foundation of Hearts has been named preferred bidder. Let us be clear though. The journey is only beginning. Our bid has not yet been accepted, albeit we are hopeful an agreement can be reached.
“In order to make this happen we need as many supporters as possible to sign up to make a monthly contribution. Our plan is to draw down our first direct debits on 2 September and every single pound matters. The fate of Heart of Midlothian really is in the hands of us, the supporters.”
The next step is expected to be the appointment of an administrator for Ubig, Hearts’ parent company, which, like Ukio, was once controlled by Vladimir Romanov. An appeal against the decision to declare Ubig insolvent will be heard in the next few weeks and, if that is unsuccessful, an administrator would then be appointed.