WITH only two days to go before their share offer closes, Hearts face a race against time to sell half of the total which has been made available to fans.
The Tynecastle club passed the £800,000 mark late last week, and were buoyed by the news that one supporter bought his second maximum package of £27,500. But, with £1.78 million worth of shares having been made available by parent company Ubig, over 50 per cent remains unsold.
That £1.78m represents ten per cent of the stake owned by Ubig, the company controlled by Vladimir Romanov. The Lithuanian businessman has said that the aims of the share offer are to generate much-needed cash and, in the longer term, to test the mood among the support for a move towards community ownership of the club.
The share offer came at a time when Hearts faced two bills from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs – one for an overdue sum of around £445,000, and another for alleged unpaid income tax of £1.75m. The first sum, which was the subject of a winding-up order against the club, has now been settled in full, and Hearts have come to an agreement with HMRC to settle the second claim for a slightly smaller amount over three years.
But, while the club is now in a more stable short-term position, its long-term future remains uncertain. Acknowledging that, businessman Jimmy Ross, the buyer of that second maximum package, urged his fellow fans to continue to contribute according to their ability. “I always said if I had more money I would buy more shares,” Ross, who works in the oil and gas industry in Singapore, told the Hearts website.
“I have some unexpected income coming in from work over Christmas and the New Year, so the first thing I thought about doing was making another contribution to the share offer. I am in the fortunate position of being able to do a little bit more.
“Survival is the priority. The focus is more and more on the young players coming through and, if we have to lose some of the bigger wages going forward and rely on less experienced players, then that has to be more acceptable than the unthinkable happening.”
Former Hearts striker and manager John Robertson, whose term as share ambassador will end when the offer closes, has thanked supporters for their fund-raising efforts to date, and, like Ross, urged them to keep on contributing if they can.
“To have raised over £800,000 in that short amount of time is nothing short of miraculous,” he said. “Given the financial climate and with Christmas fast approaching, the total is even more remarkable and I know the players, management, board and the staff of Heart of Midlothian FC appreciate everything that you, the fans, have done to keep the club going.
“Make no mistake about it, the club was days from closing and the response to the call to arms in October has been stunning. I urge any fan who is still considering the purchase of shares to come forward before the deadline to help us reach as high a total as possible to keep the club moving forward.
“We must continue to fight by turning up to games and supporting the club and the team as much as we can and I stand by my statement that, ‘as long as I am alive, I will not let this club die’. I know how important this club is to us all and ask for one final push in 2012.”