Hearts seek diplomatic aid as crisis point nears

Hearts’ joint-administrator Bryan Jackson is to meet with the Lithuanian ambassador to Great Britain in London later this week before jetting out to the Baltic State as the bid to secure a future for the Tynecastle club becomes ever more urgent.

Bryan Jackson: Embassy talks. Picture: Neil Hanna
Bryan Jackson: Embassy talks. Picture: Neil Hanna

Jackson, of insolvency experts BDO, is expected to hold talks with Her Excellency Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene in London on Friday ahead of next Monday’s potentially pivotal meeting of the creditors of both Ukio Bankas and UBIG.

A Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) worth £2.5 million was agreed with Ukio back in November, with a separate agreement to secure the near 50 per cent shareholding of Ubig for a five-figure sum having also been struck. However, as the months roll by, the green light to proceed with the transfer of ownership of the troubled Gorgie outfit to Ann Budge’s Bidco, which is expected to pass the club on to fans’ group the Foundation of Hearts (FoH) within five years, was not granted at a meeting of Ukio creditors on Friday and has been postponed until Monday, 7 April, when Ubig’s creditors are also due to convene.

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Attempts by BDO to discuss the nature of “technical issues” that may have been behind Friday’s delay and to smooth out concerns that Sauliu Bank, a creditor of Ubig, may have with the purchase price have largely been unsuccessful. With BDO’s funding due to run out at the end of this month, and a 20-day appeal period to follow Monday’s meeting, the fresh delays have prompted Jackson to seek high-level political help that also includes the British ambassador to Lithuania, David Hunt.

With agreements having already been struck in principle months ago, everyone involved with Hearts continues to hope “common sense will prevail”, according to the FoH yesterday. However, worryingly, the threat of liquidation has been increasingly mentioned in recent days as frustration grows with events in Lithuania. A Plan B, which would involve a move to launch a Newco similar to Rangers, resulting in Hearts dropping into the bottom tier of Scottish football, has not been developed but figures close to the negotiations have confessed it may have to be seriously considered if there are any further postponements.

An increasingly-concerned FoH chairman Ian Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, told BBC Scotland yesterday: “If the 7 April meeting either doesn’t take place or isn’t very positive, then I think everyone has known for some time that liquidation is a possibility. We are all worried. We want to get this over the line. It’s been going on too long now and the information coming out of Lithuania is inconsistent or incomplete.”

Former Hearts chairman Lord Foulkes has used his political influence to enlist the help of Hunt on the club’s behalf and yesterday expressed his own concerns at the delays and the worrying information vacuum. He said: “It’s ten months since Hearts entered administration. We keep getting told a meeting in February is going to resolve it, then a meeting in March is going to resolve it, now a meeting in April is going to resolve it. The fans are very anxious at the delay, very nervous about it.”