FOUNDATION OF HEARTS want Vladimir Romanov to back their takeover of the club by pledging £100 a month to the fan-ownership scheme. Despite criticism from the Hearts owner, the Foundation chairman Alex Mackie stressed today that he would welcome endorsement from Romanov as he tries to secure the Russian’s shareholding in the club.
Tynecastle supporters have already pledged various amounts of money through the Foundation of Hearts website, which lets fans decide how much they would be willing to contribute towards running the club each month. The cash would be used as working capital if Mackie’s group gain control.
Three takeover bids from Foundation of Hearts have been rejected by Romanov in the last 18 months. The latest was last month when a £450,000 offer was refused, prompting Romanov to decry the efforts of Mackie and his associates.
“I am surprised they want to buy the club with supporters’ money and not invest their personal wealth like I did,” he said.
Mackie resisted biting back and said he will not enter into a war of words with Romanov. Instead, he challenged him to become Foundation of Hearts’ most notorious backer by pledging £100 a month.
“If Vladimir really wants to help in the long run, let him contribute towards the Foundation at £100 a month,” Mackie told the Evening News. “We are hoping he is going to endorse the principles of the Foundation because he obviously doesn’t understand them.
“I don’t want to get involved in a war of words. I want to deal with the owners fairly, evenly and civilly. Despite what they say, we will move on positively with our own negotiations and continue our constructive dialogue directly with the Hearts owners. We aren’t going to negotiate through the media. We want to keep our own high standards.
“It’s not about individuals investing their personal wealth. It has never been about that for Foundation of Hearts and it never will be. It’s about fan ownership and each individual contributing according to their means.”
Foundation of Hearts will submit a new offer for control to the club’s board, but not until after the new year. They are currently waiting to see key financial documents before finalising their next move.
“We won’t go back to Hearts with another formal offer until after the new year,” explained Mackie. “The club’s share issue has to come to an end first on December 19. Our talks with the owners will be ongoing regarding the components of the offer. We will break down the components of the bid and discuss each one individually.
“The owners have been sending signs and signals regarding leasing the stadium and things like that. We wouldn’t rule anything in or out on that subject. One of the difficulties for us was predicting how the tax case would pan out relating to players loaned from Lithuania.
“Now that has been made clear (Hearts last week agreed to pay Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs £1.5million over the next three years).
“The exposure is not £3m or £4m as it might have been. The exposure if Foundation of Hearts get control is another £500,000 a year. That’s money we would need to find for the cashflow of the club.
“On one level, the uncertainty of that issue is removed, but on another level it means the working capital has to factor this outcome into it.
“The funding gap is affected by the tax case. The two are very much related. It was said to be a gap of £2m. We thought we had it down to £1.5m but the outcome of this tax case shoots it back up to £2m.
“We need to have a really good view of our opportunities and exposures. I have asked the owners for that in order to ensure that, if we are acting on behalf of the fans, we are moving forward with accurate and complete knowledge.”
Mackie believes Foundation of Hearts are dealing directly with the Tynecastle hierarchy and not through any conduit. Leaflets were distributed to more than 14,000 fans at Saturday’s SPL match against Aberdeen explaining the Foundation’s plans for running the club.
With Hearts’ own share issue approaching its end and Foundation of Hearts preparing another bid for control, Mackie is keen for fans to enrol in his plan as soon as possible.
“Over 14,000 fans got a leaflet in their hand on Saturday and I hope they read it through,” he said. “Making a pledge via our website is the big thing now. It’s very important for the fans to see the way forward and the pledge will provide the working capital for us.
“Vladimir Romanov was saying we have to find other backers, but the other backers are the fans making the pledge. The pledge will underpin the working capital needed to plug the funding gap.
“I don’t think we are going to be offering a one-off sum for control of Hearts. You don’t just suddenly come up with £5m, £10m, £15m or £20m as a lump sum. It’s just not like that.
“We have to break down the components and be very careful before we make any moves. We aren’t going to make any moves on behalf of the fans unless it’s sensible on behalf of the fans. We will always make sure we get the right deal on behalf of the fans. We can’t over- emphasise how important the pledge is now. It is absolutely critical for Foundation of Hearts. If we can get 10,000 fans at an average of £20 or £30 a month, that’s a phenomenal amount.”
Romanov is expected to demand a significant sum, possibly in excess of £10m, to relinquish his majority shareholding in Hearts.
Mackie and his Foundation will not offer anything like that amount of money but they remain hopeful that a compromise agreement can be reached with the Russian businessman and those who represent him.
Whether Romanov ever parts with £100 of his own money every month to subscribe to Foundation of Hearts remains to be seen.