The club would be unable to find a buyer, former chairmen and players told the Evening News today, urging the Russian banking tycoon to write off some of the £34 million debt to have a hope of selling the club.
The warning came after Romanov yesterday announced his intention to sell Hearts – and invest his fortune in buying a theatre. He hinted some weeks ago that he was losing interest, but suggested the extent of that would be finding a “partner” or additional investment. But last night he told Russian media: “I want to leave football. I have given the order to find buyers for all my clubs. I want to buy a theatre and sell the clubs.”
Hearts legend Gary Mackay said: “I don’t think anybody would even go near Heart of Midlothian Football Club with the debt it holds at this moment in time. Over the years Mr Romanov has written off debts and I think he would have to be looking to do that again before he’d get any real interest, particularly within the Edinburgh business community, if there was any interest at all.”
Former chairman Leslie Deans said: “The current financial climate is very difficult and Scottish football is not a place to make money. It will be difficult to find someone with deep pockets to get involved. It might be that Vladimir Romanov is prepared to take a financial hit and if he did that, that would be a magnificent gesture. It may well be he could sell on or keep part of the debt, or put part of the debt on to the Ukio Bankas group, and therefore not saddle Hearts with that going forward. That in turn could make it easier for someone to come in.”
Former chairman George Foulkes added: “If Romanov expected a potential buyer to take on that whole debt and service it, I doubt they would find anyone at all. It would need some kind of bargain between Romanov and a potential purchaser.”