HEARTS fans could be in line for a “wonderful Christmas present” as hopes are raised the club might be out of administration by the end of the year.
Club administrator BDO was last night given the go-ahead to negotiate a deal to pay off the club’s debts – paving the way for a Foundation of Hearts takeover. The company voluntary arrangement (CVA) must be agreed with the two major creditors, Ukio Bankas and UBIG, plus other creditors, owed a combined £28 million. Both Lithuanian bodies are also in administration.
The administrator of Ukio Bankas, Valentas UAB, has agreed in principle to accept an offer from preferred bidder Foundation of Hearts in what has been hailed by the Hearts Supporters Trust as “a massive step to getting out of administration”.
Majority shareholder UBIG is expected to have administrators appointed tomorrow, bringing a deal closer still.
The development raises the dream prospect of Tynecastle being in the hands of fans by the time Hearts play Hibs on New Year’s Day.
Former Hearts chairman Lord George Foulkes said it was all “exceptionally good news”. He said: “I know that a lot of fans were getting anxious because nothing seemed to be happening. I think they will be delighted with this.
“It would be a wonderful Christmas present if we could get it done by Christmas and certainly by the end of the year is the aim. I know we have got the resources to keep it going to the end of the year but it still needs people to turn up at the matches and really showing their commitment.”
Bryan Jackson of BDO, a joint administrator of the club, said he hoped a final CVA meeting, paving the way for FoH taking control of the club, could take place before the turn of the year.
But he warned there was a prolonged legal process ahead and any proposals needed the support of shareholders.
He said: “There are a number of issues to be clarified and concerns addressed but we are at least progressing once more.” He said it was still vital for fans to come to matches and keep money flowing through the club to push the CVA process forward.
Ian Murray, chairman of the Foundation of Hearts, said he was thrilled the FoH’s offer looked like being accepted. He said: “We are delighted that we seem to be moving forward but we are under no illusions it’s a done deal. There’s still a long way to go on this but it looks as though BDO’s initial assessment and timetable seems to be coming to fruition.”
Gail Hume, chair of the Hearts Supporters Trust, said she was pleased “the door had been opened”. She said: “We certainly welcome the news today, it’s very encouraging but there needs to be an air of caution as it’s not a done deal yet.”
Road map to survival
THE next step for Hearts is to strike a deal with its two major creditors, Ukio Bankas and UBIG.
Ukio has security over the club’s assets, 29 per cent of its shares and is owed about £15 million, while UBIG is owed £10m and owns 50 per cent.
A legal timetable must now be drawn up where creditors are contacted, given time to reply and meetings are held. This is followed by a “cooling-off period” before any deal can be struck.
A CVA allows a business to pay an agreed amount of its debts off over time whilst turning its fortunes around. Bryan Jackson of BDO said it meant a start could be made on the formal acceptance of the Foundation of Hearts bid and legally agreeing terms.