HEARTS fans and former chairman Lord Foulkes today hailed millionaire businesswoman Ann Budge’s £2.5 million rescue package to save the club.
The businesswoman was first revealed as the club’s likely white knight 15 months ago by the Evening News.
It has now been confirmed she will effectively lend fans the cash and she has vowed to sell her 80 per cent share in the club back after it’s been paid back.
The 65-year-old’s intervention means supporters could be forced to wait another five years – and raise a staggering £6m – in order to take control of the troubled Gorgie outfit.
Her BIDCO takeover vehicle will take initial control of the club, with Budge acting as unpaid chairman for a minimum of three years.
The Foundation, financed by monthly direct debit commitments from ordinary punters, will also have to raise £1m to cover an immediate funding gap and – vital if they are to exit administration – clear all outstanding football debts.
Lord Foulkes said: “I’m enthusiastic to see the fans take over. Ann’s been central to the whole thing.
“Hearts will be the biggest fan-owned club in the whole country.”
A Barcelona-style membership scheme, where a large number of fans will take a stake in the club, will remain central to the rescue strategy.
A Foundation of Hearts source, who joined forces with Ann, also welcomed the move.
An insider said: “It’s great that Ann has been named director of BIDCO. There is no-one better in terms of business expertise. We look forward to getting Hearts out of administration soon.”
Kenny Taylor, chairman of the West End Hearts Supporters Club added: “There is light at the end of the tunnel and they will be asked to legally commit to putting £1.4m per season into the club, a figure within their current projections.”
Budge is understood to view the deal as a way of helping fellow supporters to achieve their aims without getting involved in the financial hole of owning a football club over the long term.
BIDCO said that while legal agreements are not yet in place it believed the “rescue package” would return the club to financial stability. BIDCO added: “It is vital that supporters understand that it is likely £6m needs to be raised over a five-year period to achieve the objectives of saving the club over the long term and moving into supporter ownership.”
The multi-millionaire IT guru made a personal fortune of £40 million in 2005 when she sold the IT company she helped create 20 years earlier for £70m.
The Hearts-supporting executive was founder partner in what was then one of Britain’s fastest-growing private companies, Newell & Budge, which was sold to French company Sopra. By then her company had more than 1000 staff in nine offices in the UK and New Delhi. She also worked as an IT manager at brewer Scottish & Newcastle, where she began her career as a trainee programmer.
She left to start working from home forming N&B with partner Allison Newell in 1985.
In 2005, she won the Entrepreneurial Exchange’s Entrepreneur of the Year.