ALEX Mackie, chairman of the Foundation of Hearts, has emphatically stated that his consortium will have no dealings with controversial former Livingston owner Angelo Massone and has described the Italian’s interest in the club as “very concerning”.
Massone has reportedly submitted a written bid of £4.5 million to representatives of Tynecastle majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov in an audacious effort to gain control of the financially-stricken Edinburgh outfit.
He is thought to be the figurehead of an Italian consortium which, he claims, is willing to hand a percentage of the club to supporters, if their takeover proves successful. Should the bid fail, the 41-year-old has also offered to pool financial resources with supporters’ group Foundation of Hearts, which is seeking to purchase the club.
However, Mackie last night dismissed any idea of working with Massone, who brought Livingston to the brink of extinction during his 12-month reign, which ended in the Summer of 2009.
“We did not know anything about this interest, and we certainly would not look to have any dealings with them at all,” said Mackie.
“A relationship with Mr Massone and his group is not something we would see as an appropriate next step, so it is not a suggestion we welcome.”
Foundation of Hearts saw an offer for the club rejected last week, as the Edinburgh-based consortium offered to pay the recent tax bill of £450,000 which threatened the future of the Gorgie club.
Despite a debt of £24m and a confirmed £2m shortfall until the end of this season, it is thought Massone’s bid will not meet Romanov’s valuation either, ensuring – for the moment – that he will not be returning to Scottish football.
The lawyer purchased a 76 per cent majority shareholding in Livingston for one pound from Pearse Flynn in 2008 and presided over the most tumultuous period in the club’s short history. Livingston were placed in administration due to unpaid debts to West Lothian Council, from whom they rent Almondvale, in July 2009, following months of turmoil and embarrassment, including electricity being cut off to the club due to arrears due to their power company.
After initially refusing to sell his shares in the club – despite furious protests from fans – Massone ultimately accepted an offer of £50,000 for his stake.
Livingston, who narrowly survived the ordeal, were forced to begin life in the Third Division.
Mackie continued: “Our focus is making the Foundation of Hearts into a legitimate vehicle for fan ownership of a wonderful football club. To that end, we do not believe working with Angelo Massone’s consortium would be a positive move. The first we heard of the bid was through the media on Friday, so I have been slightly taken aback. It is a development which I believe is very concerning.”
Livingston’s current chief executive Ged Nixon warned Hearts to tread cautiously following Massone’s link to the club. Nixon, who helped save the Almondvale side from going bust in summer 2009, said: “I think the stakeholders and the fans of Hearts would be well advised to talk to the supporters of Livingston to find out about the experience they had of dealing with Mr Massone.
“They should look upon this bid sceptically and with caution before embracing Mr Massone.”