Hearts’ future has effectively been secured after majority shareholder Ubig agreed to sell their stake to the Foundation of Hearts.
But now BDO administrator Bryan Jackson is facing a race against time to complete the fans group’s takeover before the club runs out of money.
The transfer of fallen Lithuanian investment company Ubig’s 78.97 per cent stake for a five-figure fee is regarded as the last major hurdle in a complex process to save the 140-year-old institution. Would-be owners the Foundation, who are backed by over 7,600 fans making monthly donations, had already agreed to buy secured creditor Ukio Bankas’ 29.9 per cent shareholding for £2.5 million.
The share deals, however, need to be passed at creditors meetings involving Ubig and Ukio, who were owed £8.2m and £15.5m respectively, at the end of March. And it is only then that Jackson will be able to conclude a deal with the Foundation, who are relying on private finance (Bidco) for the purchase cost.
Jackson said: “This is welcome news for the club as it means that the transfer of ownership can go ahead.
“While there remain some technical issues to resolve, the process is now gaining some momentum.
“I would again like to thank the fans, the staff and the players for their continued patience during this time. For all of those involved with Hearts, on and off the pitch and on the terraces, it has been a very difficult period and their assistance and support has been greatly appreciated.”
Jackson will now bid to hand over control to FOH by the end of March, the time that he estimates the club’s cash will run out.
Should the closing negotiations stretch into April, Jackson would then have to source more working capital.
This could mean selling next term’s season tickets or asking the Foundation to help out.
But Foundation chairman Ian Murray is delighted with the progress that is being made to
take the club out of administration.
Murray said: “This is very welcome news from BDO. We are edging closer to getting the club out of administration and we are now talking about when rather than if. This is a very significant hurdle overcome and we are delighted but more work is required.
“Let me continue to stress that we encourage every supporter who has not yet done so, and is able, to set up their monthly contribution at www.foundationofhearts.org.”
Hearts plunged into administration last June with debts of £28.5 million. Jackson was forced to axe 13 non-playing staff and four players as he wrestled with the club’s finances.
Hearts striker Dale Carrick, speaking after the club’s extraordinary League Cup semi-final defeat to nine-man Inverness at Easter Road on Sunday, believes getting the club out of administration is a far more important long-term result than what takes place on the field.
While still reeling from Sunday’s loss on penalties, Carrick said: “It will be the best result for the club and for the players to get out of administration.”
Hearts were seconds from victory on Sunday but conceded a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage-time and failed to overcome their short-handed opponents during extra-time.
“They were down to nine men and we thought we could get forward and get some goals. But it was just unlucky – we couldn’t get that goal,” added Carrick.
“In extra time we knew we had to be patient, but also upping the tempo so we could get forward.
“But we would have to make the right decision in the final third to try and get that final goal. So patience was key there. When you go down to nine men you just sit and hope to get anything on the counter. It was hard to break them down.”
Carrick admitted he thought the game was over as the clock ticked down. Then came Nick Ross’ equaliser. “It was the last 30 seconds when they scored. I was so gutted. I thought we’d won it 2-1.”
Hearts’ next league match is away at Inverness on Saturday week, and while they lie 17 points adrift at the foot of the table, Carrick admitted revenge would be their incentive. “We’ll get them back for that, I would say,” he said.