HEARTS chiefs have rubbished claims Vladimir Romanov is insolvent as storm clouds continue to gather over the tycoon’s Lithuanian banking interests.
Club director Sergejus Fedotovas today quickly moved to quell speculation over Romanov’s personal fortune following the collapse of his Lithuanian bank and said the crisis would have little bearing on Hearts FC.
Mr Fedotovas branded insolvency allegations levelled against his boss in Lithuania “total rubbish”.
It comes as Raimondas Kuodis, vice-chairman of the Bank of Lithuania, quoted “official information” about the Hearts owner’s liabilities – thought to be in the region of £58 million – had surpassed his total wealth of £42m.
Mr Fedotovas, Romanov’s right-hand man, denied the claims and said the strength of the Russian businessman’s wealth was not linked to Hearts’ survival.
The club is currently more than £20m in debt to UBIG, Romanov’s main investment company, and failed to pay players on time earlier this season.
Ukio Bankas, 64.9 per cent owned by Romanov, was placed in temporary administration this week amid fears over risky practices as its value fell to an eight-year low.
“Obviously I cannot speak for Mr Romanov but as far as I know, he is not insolvent,” said Mr Fedotovas. “That’s total rubbish. I would be very surprised if that happened.
“Hearts are self-sufficient and trading properly.
“We are paying our bills on time, paying wages, tax and other bills on time. We don’t foresee any financial issues going forward.”
However, speaking at a question and answer session in Lithuania with worried customers yesterday, Mr Kuodis claimed shareholders will “lose everything”.
He said a merger – or handing the “good” part of Ukio Bankas over to rivals Siauliu Bankas is “the most likely scenario”.
Siauliu’s bosses are already offering a “pension advance” to Ukio customers who have cash tied up with the stricken financial institution.
He further claimed Ukio’s management had told the central bank Romanov had neither the money nor the will to save the bank, and according to his own official declaration was insolvent. He said: “He is insolvent, though I don’t think you can blindly believe the declaration. The owner had enough time to resolve the problem, but showed no enthusiasm.”
Steve Kilgour, secretary of the Federation of Hearts Supporters, said Romanov’s alleged financial problems could accelerate the sale of the club.
“I find it a bit hard to believe that Mr Romanov is now insolvent,” he said. “I don’t know how you can go from having so much wealth to nothing.”
Director optimistic for future
HEARTS director Sergejus Fedotovas said the club was now surviving without funding from Romanov or UBIG and was working towards becoming self-sustainable by the start of next season.
He said: “Speaking about this season, I think we are working hard to get things sorted. Our targets are realistic to achieve that. We are not sitting on a pile of cash but we are looking forward with optimism and I hope our aim can be achieved.
“Hearts are looking towards being self-sufficient. With all plans coming to fruition, hopefully we will be in a safe place financially so that we won’t need any third-party cash injections to keep us going.
“We are staying confident and we believe a much better situation can be achieved come the new season.”