Hibs' incredible journey: Kit Gordon's love affair, Ian Gordon's big ambitions and Malcolm McPherson's grand claim as he makes 'best ever' assertion

Hibs prepare the way to make up ground on rivals Hearts as pioneering new investment heralds new era – but success not guaranteed.

During two different spells as chairman at Hibs, the latest of which is ongoing, Malcolm McPherson has witnessed many things. He was directly involved in hiring Franck Sauzee as manager - as well as sacking him 69 days later it must be noted. He was also at the helm as Hibs recovered from the trauma of relegation in 1998.

It is fair to say the lawyer has played his part in a considerable amount of Hibernian history, most recently last Tuesday evening when he took his place at the top table for the club’s annual general meeting.

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The main business was agreeing a proposal for billionaire Bournemouth owner Bill Foley's Black Knight group to buy a 25 per cent stake in the club. Duly approved, Hibs are now the first Scottish club to become part of a worldwide network of clubs existing under the same corporate umbrella. As Scotland's first European Cup representatives, Hibs have long been pioneering. However, this latest groundbreaking move is not something McPherson could have envisaged during his initial tenure between 1999 and 2002.

Late Hibs owner Ron Gordon's widow Kit is flanked by Easter Road chairman Malcolm McPherson (left) and chief executive Ben Kensell (right) at the club's agm last Tuesday (Photo by Ewan Bootman / SNS Group)Late Hibs owner Ron Gordon's widow Kit is flanked by Easter Road chairman Malcolm McPherson (left) and chief executive Ben Kensell (right) at the club's agm last Tuesday (Photo by Ewan Bootman / SNS Group)
Late Hibs owner Ron Gordon's widow Kit is flanked by Easter Road chairman Malcolm McPherson (left) and chief executive Ben Kensell (right) at the club's agm last Tuesday (Photo by Ewan Bootman / SNS Group)

“I don’t think such things as multi-club networks existed when I started!” he said, reasonably. “I became involved (over) 20 years ago and the difference in the club in terms of ambition, drive and commitment is striking.”

One of McPherson's legacies from his first spell as chairman was sanctioning the flattening out of the famous Easter Road slope. The new investment certainly helps even up the playing field when it comes to taking on Hearts, who have been buttressed by financial support from veteran fund manager James Anderson as well as thousands of ordinary supporters paying monthly sums to the Federation of Hearts.

The deserved draw Hibs managed to obtain at Tynecastle in midweek perhaps heralds a fairer fight in the future. The Easter Road club can look forward to a £6 million injection in the first instance from Foley, who plans to visit Edinburgh before the end of the season.

Given McPherson’s long association with Hibs it felt notable that, in his welcome address to shareholders at the agm, he described the present owners as the best thing that has ever happened to the Easter Road club. “Tom Farmer saved the club, built the stadium and made a significant difference – but his passion wasn’t football," McPherson outlined later. "The Gordon family, Ron, Ian – maybe even Kit now too – were and are committed to taking the football club forward. It’s a different atmosphere and it’s very exciting.”

It was a bold and eye-opening claim, particularly since there was disquiet before the meeting, and at the meeting itself, about the erosion of Hibs' independence and the irreversible nature of some of the resolutions, including changes to the Articles of Association. All were passed.

The club is now firmly in American hands and, at 79, one does wonder about Foley's future intentions. Two directors from the Black Knight group will sit on the Easter Road board. No significant decision can be made without one or both being present, which, while not full control, equates to having a major say.

Nevertheless, as it stands, and despite Ron's death aged 68 last year, the Gordons claim they won’t relinquish power and have no desire to do so. Kit, Ron's widow, could not have been more insistent about this, underlining her commitment via a charming anecdote that underlined why Ron's work will go on.

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"One of my first dates with Ron was when he had started a football newspaper called Soccer Plus," she recalled. "We had the Diplomats back in Washington DC and on our second date he took me to the press box at one of the games.

“For our third date he took me, during the day, to deliver his newspapers to various sports stores. So, early on in our relationship before we were married, he exposed me to football and told me that his dream – at the age of 28 or 29 – was to one day own a football club. With our boys I was living in a household of men, and I was told by my friends that I would have to be interested or get left out. And I don’t like getting left out.

"This has been an incredible journey and I am only sorry that Ron is not here to see this,” she continued. “But I know that, as a family, we are committed towards keeping on going

“We have fallen in love with Hibs, we have fallen in love with Edinburgh. And our plan is to ensure that the club moves onward and upward. This was meant to be. I believe that – it was meant to be.’’

She feels compelled to continue delivering Ron’s vision, this desire strengthened, she says, by the warm embrace of Hibs fans since their arrival five years ago. Such support has been deeply appreciated over the past 12 difficult months by both Kit and son Ian, who has stepped up to the plate.

Still in his early 30s, Ian was previously head of recruitment but now holds an executive role, having helped secure the Foley investment. He was asked to outline the ambitions on the back of fresh investment.

“Firstly, it is to solidify third place and then we want to be a regular in European football, that is the ultimate goal,” he said. “We need to be making the group stages on a year-on-year basis and then to bring more cups to the club - and then eventually hopefully bridge the gap on the Old Firm.”

No wonder some supporters, flushed at the prospect of the journey ahead, have been turning on those exhibiting more caution. Hibernian Supporters Limited’s stance – they voted against a resolution allowing the club to issue more shares, which will dilute their own shareholding – was to be expected, particularly given the club’s past experiences dating back to former Hearts owner Wallace Mercer's merger attempt.

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One wonders what the future is now for a group set up towards the end of the Farmer era with the aim of reaching a 25.1 per cent shareholding. Having peaked at 19 per cent, their stake is now down to around seven.

Foley has expressed a desire to work with all significant shareholders. HLS are still the third largest shareholder and seem set to remain in the background as a contingency plan should things not work out.

“I hope the future and destination is a bright one – for the sake of all of us,” said HSL chairman Jim Adie. “We move forward into the future and we will always do our best to work positively with the club and welcome talks with Mr Foley.”

A bright new dawn for Hibs? Perhaps, although we have of course heard that before. It certainly seems set to be a fascinating one.