Ann Budge talks of journey to Hearts ownership

Hearts supremo Ann Budge. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Hearts supremo Ann Budge. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Having made her millions in the IT business, Ann Budge was in a strong position to help out Hearts when she took over the reins in the spring of 2014.

But her early life in her beloved Edinburgh tells a very different story.

Speaking to EH50 magazine, the Tynecastle supremo told of her childhood, her successful business career and her love of the Capital.

“Most of my childhood was in west Pilton, which is not the most salubrious part of Edinburgh,” she said. “I lived there until I went to university and then we moved to Easter Drylaw. We were a working-class family of seven but I had a fantastic childhood and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I went to Pennywell School. It doesn’t exist any more. It was huts, basically.”

By a stroke of luck, Ms Budge was given the opportunity to go on to Trinity Academy before becoming the first in her family to go to university.

“My father was slightly reluctant,” she said. “He was of the age where he thought there was no point in educating women, they should just get married and have babies. Even though he was an intelligent man, that was his view.”

Ms Budge’s mother, on the other hand, showed nothing but support for her daughter’s decision to fly the nest in favour of a psychology degree at Strathclyde University.

“Her objective was to ensure that all of her five children had more opportunity and ‘a better life than she had’, which was quite tough,” she said.

On graduating, Ms Budge returned to the Capital unsure of her next move. Despite running a successful company, she has never been drawn to the big city London life.

“I love the size of Edinburgh,” she said. “I have travelled all over the world but despite the fact I have been to some absolutely amazing places I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

“The only haunt I seem to have at the moment is Tynecastle Stadium, although if we go out for meals we would tend to be in the city centre around George Street and the Stockbridge area.”

Ms Budge’s first job was with Scottish & Newcastle Brewery.

“I ended up being an IT graduate trainee knowing nothing about computers,” she said. “I didn’t know one end of a computer from the other. We were given the training and I still remember very vividly that I was struggling because I had been given the job but I was going on holiday, so this IT director said ‘do you want the job or not?’. I missed the first week and joined in week two and was completely lost for the first couple of weeks.”

After 12 years of service with S&N, she was head-hunted to join IT services company 
F International.

She then set up F International in Scotland before soon being asked to take on some regions of England.

Next she went into business with Alison Newell, forming Newell & Budge in 1985.

When Ms Newell chose to retire, Ms Budge bought out her share in the company, going on to run the show herself until she sold up to Sopra Group four years later.

It was then that Ms Budge, a long-standing Jambo, started discussions about how she could help the club.

Most people’s idea of total relaxation is a day at the spa or a country walk. For Ms Budge, it was a trip to Tynecastle.

Her love affair with the game started when daughter Carol bought her a ticket to see Hearts play.

“I divorced when my daughter was young and she would go to the football with her father at the weekends,” Ms Budge said. “She bought me a ticket as part of a birthday present and like all mothers I said the right things.

“I have always been a workaholic – that’s just one of my characteristics. But it turned out that the only time in the week that I actually switched off was when I came to Tynecastle.”

• EH50 magazine is out now.