“We received an offer from Mr Massone but it has been rejected,” the spokesperson said. “We are aware of Mr Massone’s previous involvement in the game in Scotland and the board has decided not to pursue his offer any further.”
Massone’s offer, reported to be £4.5million, is understood to have been made through
lawyers. Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas assessed it before the board discussed it and agreed to turn it down.
“In the view of the board, the bid he made also undervalued the club,” the spokesperson continued. “Bidders will need to provide a financial offer to reflect the value of the club, be fit to run it as required by the Scottish FA and disclose their plans going forward. They will also have to provide guarantees for Hearts’ future to ensure the successful duration of the business of the club.”
Hearts’ rejection of Massone’s offer will come as a relief to many supporters of the Tynecastle club, for two distinct reasons. First, they were far from convinced that the Italian businessman, who had a turbulent time in charge of Livingston, would be the right person to take over from Romanov.
And second, there is some reassurance to be gained from the fact that, however in need of cash the current owner is, he will apply criteria other than the strictly financial before agreeing a sale.
The statement from Hearts confirming the rejection was couched in diplomatic terms, but the message was unmistakable: the board of directors could not envisage a positive future for the club under Massone. “Heart of Midlothian FC can today reveal that it has rejected a bid from businessman Angelo Massone to buy the club,” the statement on the club website said. “The offer was received last week but the board feels the Italian may not be the right person to take the club forward.”
Massone and three associates bought control of Livingston in the summer of 2008 from Pearse Flynn, but the following year the club went into administration. The threat of liquidation hung over Almondvale for some time as Massone refused to sell his shares, but in the end he relented and sold out to new owners. Livingston’s financial problems continued, however, and the club was subsequently demoted from the First Division to the Third.
Hearts’ own current financial problems are severe, and over the past two weeks supporters have rallied to raise funds in a number of ways. The single biggest sum, estimated at £500,000, has been raised by the sale of shares in the club, and the offer to supporters to buy a stake will remain open for another month.
Hearts’ immediate need is to pay a tax bill of £450,000 by 3 December. Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs were initially granted a winding-up order if full payment was not made within eight days, but have since agreed that the sum can be paid in two instalments. The club and HMRC are also in dispute over a £1.75m sum.
Yesterday’s rejection was the second time in a week that Hearts have turned down a takeover bid. The first offer came from Foundation of Hearts, a group whose aim is supporter ownership.
Foundation of Hearts have since said that they will return with an enhanced offer. It
remains to be seen if Massone will also increase his bid.