Hearts administration: SFA may thwart Massone bid

ANGELO MASSONE could be thwarted in his attempt to take control of Hearts by the Scottish Football Association’s fit and proper person legislation.

Angelo Massone pictured during his time at Livingston. The SFA may block his bid on fit and proper grounds. Picture: SNS
Angelo Massone pictured during his time at Livingston. The SFA may block his bid on fit and proper grounds. Picture: SNS

The Italian businessman, currently based in Glasgow, was one of three parties to lodge a bid for the Tynecastle club with administrators BDO before their 5pm deadline last Friday.

Former Livingston owner Massone made his offer through Five Stars Football Ltd, a company which was registered in June 2012 and of which he is listed as the sole director.

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But Massone seems certain to fail to fulfil the SFA’s articles of association regarding individuals on the official return of any member club. Article 10.2 states that the SFA board has the power to veto anyone who “has been a director of a club in membership of any National Association within the five-year period preceding such club having undergone an insolvency event.”

Massone was in charge of Livingston when they were placed in administration in July 2009 for failure to pay a debt to West Lothian Council, owners of the club’s Almondvale Stadium. He had purchased Livingston for a nominal fee from Pearse Flynn in the summer of 2008.

Livingston were on the brink of liquidation when Massone rejected an offer for his shares from administrators Mazars. But they were spared at the 11th hour when he sold the club to Gordon McDougall and Neil Rankine.

BDO are currently assessing Massone’s offer, along with the bids from united supporters group Foundation of Hearts and HMFC Ltd, a company set up by Peebles businessman Bob Jamieson.

A lifelong Hearts supporter, Jamieson contacted The Scotsman yesterday to express his confidence HMFC Ltd will be named preferred bidder soon.

A former shirt sponsor of
the club, Jamieson alsosought to clarify American sports investment company Club 9 Sports’ role in HMFC Ltd’s bid and said other parties, including the Scandinavian consortium and the London consortium fronted by former SRU chief executive Gordon McKie, will be offered the chance to become part of HMFC Ltd.

“Club9Sports Agency have been appointed to seek US investment for a new stadium, which will hopefully be confirmed and developed over the next two to five years,” said Jamieson. “That is all.

“The Fans group, the Scandinavians, Gordon McKie will all be invited to join the HMFC bid as equal shareholders to secure the Hearts’ future.”

A decision on a preferred bidder is expected within the next four weeks, although any attempt to take Hearts out of administration through an agreement with creditors remains dependent on the separate insolvency events at Lithuanian parent company UBIG and Ukio Bankas.

In the short term, BDO are able to run Hearts as a going concern thanks to the additional 3000 season tickets purchased by supporters since administration. Bryan Jackson of BDO confirmed that club staff and players will receive their salaries on time this month.

“The wages have been approved, so they should all be through on time,” said Jackson. “We can’t pay any arrears at the moment, so June’s wages are still outstanding but we are now responsible for the ongoing wages. That’s why we were trying to get season tickets sold so we could fund player and non-player wages. The money is there to pay the players tomorrow and non-footballing staff on the 24th.

“The cashflow is getting sorted and we now have an agreement with merchant services for credit card payments. We should be fine now for the first three or four months, as we said we would be, which will take us up to around September/October time. During that time, we will be working on other things such as hospitality and anything else to bring in revenue.”