Hearts buyout bid: FoH in Ukio talks

Tynecastle could have new owners. Picture: SNS
Tynecastle could have new owners. Picture: SNS
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THE Foundation of Hearts plan to lodge a formal takeover bid for the club by the end of this month and is seeking a deal on the £25 million debt hanging over Tynecastle.

Key to any takeover is an agreement on Hearts’ liabilities and the Foundation is in talks with administrators of Ukio Bankas, who are owed £15m by the club. Having had an initial offer of £450,000 rejected last November, the Foundation has sourced extra financial backing and gathered fans’ groups to prepare an offer which the group believe is realistic. The aim is to put the proposal to directors of Hearts by June 30 and, if successful, run the club with a membership scheme.

More than 4000 fans have already pledged money to the cause, which the Foundation aims to convert into cash if its bid for control is accepted. Amongst the backers are the four goalscorers from the 2012 Scottish Cup final win over Hibs – Darren Barr, Rudi Skacel, Ryan McGowan and Danny Grainger. Hearts directors are open to the idea of fan ownership. Ian Murray MP, the Foundation of Hearts’ independent chair, wants to reach a deal on the debt to ensure the club is sustainable after any potential takeover. He admits the situation at Ukio Bankas Investment Group (UBIG), Hearts’ parent company which is on the brink of insolvency but owed £10m, makes it difficult.

“We plan to submit our proposal to the club by the end of June but we can’t talk about figures at all at this stage,” said Murray today. “We’ve got communication channels 
open with the Ukio Bankas administrator. We’ve been in communication with him for some time. Even the
administrator is slightly 
unclear about the position with UBIG. Ultimately we would like to take over a debt-free Hearts. Right now the debt is unsustainable, so you can’t take control of a club with that level of debt. It has to be dealt with wholly, or at least the vast majority of it. The companies in Lithuania are holding £25m of debut, but they are also two companies who are either in the process of being liquidated or are being liquidated.

“They’re not in a very strong position either. The last thing they want is to pull Hearts down. Politically that would make things difficult, plus the club is starting to sort itself out, and also they would get nothing back.”

Murray is encouraged by support from fans as he seeks to put a takeover bid to Hearts within the next three weeks. “Pledges are ramping up very quickly, with more and more every single day. People are contacting us all the time about potential investors. The message we need to keep getting out is for people to continue pledging and supporting the club. The last thing we want is the club to be damaged in any way before we make a formal offer.

The Foundation of Hearts will meet with supporters this Friday night in Tynecastle’s Gorgie Suite to asnwer questions.

Meanwhile, a £100,000 tax bill remains unpaid, with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs now ready to petition for a winding up order against Hearts at the Court of Session. The club is confident of making the payment before the matter reaches court, however.