FOUNDATION of Hearts chairman Ian Murray has predicted some rival bids for the Tynecastle club will disappear “like snow off a dyke” before next Friday’s deadline set by administrators BDO.
The Edinburgh South MP was speaking as the Foundation launched its final push for supporters to convert their pledges into direct debits to fund their quest to secure preferred bidder status.
Murray confirmed that he remains in talks with the London-based consortium, fronted by former SRU chief executive Gordon McKie, which has also lodged a firm declaration of interest with BDO. But he dismissed the credibility of a potential bid from a Scandinavian consortium.
The Foundation of Hearts are confident they remain the front-runners ahead of the 12 July closing date, although it is understood they would consider combining resources with McKie’s group as long as at least 51 per cent control of the club lay in the hands of supporters.
“The speculation (about other bids) has been such that if I had £1 for every time someone mentioned Scandinavia to me, I’d be buying the club myself,” said Murray. “But they are nowhere near being credible.
“I’ve met with Gordon McKie and his team and we’re in discussions about whether to do something together and if that’s possible. Other discussions will take place over the next few days.
“We’ve always said at the Foundation that one of three things can happen: The Foundation can buy the club, we can do it with someone else or someone else buys the club.
“Whatever is in the long-term interests of the club we wouldn’t stand in the way of that. But at this moment of time all we can do is concentrate on our own bid and that’s dependant on pledges to direct debits. Over the course of the next few days you’ll see some snow fall of the dyke in terms of people who said they might be able to bid and now won’t. We’re being up front and honest.
“We would ask any serious bidders to come and talk to us because if they genuinely have the long term interests of the club at heart then there’s no better thing to do than speak to the Foundation who have the fans and fans’ groups behind us, so you might as well get the customers behind us.”
Trevor Birch of BDO has admitted that Hearts could be forced to pursue the ‘newco’ route out of their financial crisis if exiting administration through a CVA is obstructed by the difficult in obtaining the 50 per cent shareholding owned by Lithuanian parent company UBIG who have still not formally started their own insolvency process.
But while Murray appreciates the cautionary tone of Birch, he says the Foundation are firmly committed to exercising a CVA if they are given the go ahead on 12 July.
“The administrator is being conservative when he says it could take longer for obvious reasons,” added Murray. “He’s got a 50 per cent shareholding that’s frozen and nobody knows what’s quite happening with it, although I believe an administrator should be appointed shortly.
“The CVA process is a statutory process and it may it take some time but we’ll try and get it done as quickly as possible if we get preferred bidder status. But the key to unlocking all that is the 50 per cent shareholding at UBIG and any bid that goes in will be conditional on all that shareholding coming across.
“It’s right for Trevor to say it might take some time. The two things that fall for that, though, is that the fans have been so phenomenal they’ve been able to plug the funding gap so the club will keep going but the second thing is that it’s just a short term fix and the club still needs to sell.
“That’s why our message is to get pledges converted into direct debits - and we need more. Our bid goes into the Hearts administrator so it’s up to them to sort out the chain in Lithuania, that’s not really our concern.
“While it was an incredibly bad thing to happen for Hearts to go into administration and the human cost was considerable, it just means we deal with Trevor Birch and his team in Edinburgh and it’s then up to them to decide what happens elsewhere.
“The more pledges we have the greater the bid. If I hand Trevor Birch a cheque for £50 million tomorrow then I’m sure he’ll get this done quickly so it’s all about what kind of affordable bid we can put in.
“Once that bid is on the table they need to work through the process of how they get the shareholding together and I believe they’re working on that. BDO have been very supportive and they allowed us to use the stadium yesterday and we put out an email to 46,000 on the Hearts database.
“They’ve been very helpful, open and honest as the club has always been with the FoH. I don’t know if that means we’re preferred bidder.
“The short term plan is to get control of the football club and get the finances in order. The long term projection is to make sure it lives within its means. That’s all part of the process of having the pledges in place.
“Anything over and above what we use to physically buy the club will be used for the funding gap. There isn’t a funding gap just now because they have no players or staff so there has to be a long term rebuilding process and it’s easier if fans are part of that.”
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