THE Foundation of Hearts (FoH) seized the initiative in the battle to lead the Tynecastle club out of administration when they became the first group to submit a bid ahead of BDO’s 5pm deadline today for interested parties to show their hand.
Ian Murray, independent chairman of the FoH, described the proposal lodged by the supporters organisation as “strong, credible and low risk” as they seek to take Hearts into majority fan ownership following the collapse of the ruinous Vladimir Romanov regime.
Administrators BDO confirmed receipt of the foundation bid, which was the only one submitted to them by close of business yesterday. It is understood that HMFC Ltd, a new company formed by Peebles-based businessman Bob Jamieson and backed by North Carolina sports investment firm Club 9 Sports, intend to place a rival bid today. A group of Scandinavian businessmen have shelved their previously mooted bid, while the London-based consortium fronted by former SRU chief executive Gordon McKie admitted last week they are unable to fund an offer through their own means.
Murray, the Edinburgh South MP, remains confident that the foundation, to which more than 5000 fans have already committed financial backing, have the resources and strategy necessary to ensure Hearts recover from their current plight.
“Today, the bid team working for the Foundation of Hearts has submitted its proposal to bring the club out of administration and give it a future we can all be proud of,” Murray said in a message to supporters shortly after the bid was lodged at around 3:30pm.
“The bid is strong, credible and low risk. It provides a real opportunity for financial stability and a platform to grow the club we love again.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all sincerely, the phenomenal Hearts support, because this bid would not have been possible without you.
“I hope you will understand that at this point we must respectfully be a little quieter than we have been, to allow the Hearts administrators BDO time to reflect, not only on our bid but any others bids that come in from anyone else.
“I would also continue to encourage you to set up your direct debit and contributions at www.foundationofhearts.org . Today may be the start of the next chapter in the remarkable history of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. But whatever happens, this club’s supporters will ensure it is a future as special as its past.”
The foundation must now wait to discover whether BDO believe their bid is best suited to Hearts coming out of administration through a CVA which offers the optimum solution for creditors.
“The proposal would see Hearts exit administration and, with the ongoing backing of the supporter base, move towards a position of financial stability,” read a brief statement from the foundation.
“Should this bid be accepted by BDO, it will allow the Foundation of Hearts to secure majority ownership over the club in a controlled fashion with support of the necessary capital to make today’s bid strong and credible.
“The Foundation of Hearts will respect the next stage of this process by making no further comment in the days ahead, to allow the administrators to consider next steps.”
BDO will make a statement following the close of the 5pm deadline today but it will be some time before any decision is made on a preferred bidder by joint administrators Trevor Birch and Bryan Jackson.
Given that he will have to work under whoever earns BDO’s approval, Hearts manager Gary Locke was understandably diplomatic yesterday when asked for his feelings on potential new owners of the club. But he made it clear he feels the motives of those seeking to take charge must be transparent.
“I don’t have a preferred bidder,” said Locke. “I just want someone to come in who’s got the club at heart and run it like it should be.
“I wouldn’t be uncomfortable with (foreign owners) at all. I just want the club to move forward, whoever comes in. We’re just looking for Hearts to get back to where they should be – being one of the top clubs in Scotland, trying to get into Europe and challenging for cups. If we can get back to that I’ll be delighted.
“I think it does matter who takes over. We don’t want to see ourselves in this position again. You just want someone who is going to run the club properly and within its means.
“If we can get an owner that will do that we’ll be delighted.”
Despite today’s deadline for bids, Locke is preparing himself for a lengthy period in administration before any potential purchase is completed.
He certainly expects the transfer window to close on 31 August with the club’s current player registration embargo still in place.
“It would be great for us all if the process could be done quickly but speaking to Trevor (Birch) and Bryan (Jackson), I don’t think it’s something that will be done overnight – it’s a bit of a drawn-out process.
“But obviously for myself it would be great if it was done quickly and there was a wee opportunity to bring in a couple of players before the window shuts but if that’s not the case we just have to do our best with the players that are here.
“I’m not an expert in this kind of thing but I don’t think it would be the case that it will be done quickly. Trevor and Bryan have been great – they speak with me all the time and tell me if there have been any developments.
“I’ll probably speak with them in the next 24 hours and hopefully there will be a few bidders which will allow the club to move forward.
“I think it will be positive. The fans have shown just how much the club means to them.
“So with their backing and the commitment of the backroom staff and players, I think we’ll be moving in the right direction.”