SERGEJUS FEDOTOVAS today claimed Vladimir Romanov will still have control of Hearts despite resigning as chairman of the club’s parent company, Ukio Bankas Investment Group. The entire UBIG board, including Romanov and Fedotovas, have stepped down, although Fedotovas remains a director at Tynecastle.
Romanov owns a 16.9 per cent stake in UBIG, which Fedotovas claims is sufficient for him to remain in control of the Edinburgh club. UBIG own a majority shareholding in Hearts, however the long-term future of the Lithuanian group seems uncertain following the collapse of Ukio Bankas.
Fedotovas would not disclose the reasons behind his or Romanov’s resignation from UBIG. He believes the changes will have minimal impact on Hearts, who owe UBIG more than £22 million in debt as of their last set of accounts.
“My understanding is Mr Romanov has controlled Hearts through his shareholding in other companies,” said Fedotovas when asked to explain the complex ownership structure at Hearts. “Through a group of companies, he has controlled Hearts. He has resigned as chairman from one of the companies that controlled Hearts shares. It’s a matter of the governance of that company but he still remains a person who has control at Hearts.
“I’ve seen the structure some time ago and it hasn’t changed. Unless something has changed recently that I’m not aware of, he should have the same level of control. UBIG is a company that controls Hearts, so whoever controls UBIG controls Hearts. That is very straightforward. My understanding is that his resignation from the board doesn’t destroy his relationship and his ownership link with Hearts. My understanding is this link is still there. The fact he has resigned from UBIG doesn’t mean he has sold UBIG or sold the club. That is completely different.
“You can control companies by means of being a shareholder. If he is a shareholder, he appoints the board.”
UBIG intend to appoint a new board of directors who could have a say on Hearts’ future. Fedotovas was coy on why he and Romanov stepped aside. “I have resigned from UBIG according to my reasons,” he said. “I cannot give an explanation why other people have resigned. These are my private reasons and I’m not prepared to share them.”
Asked about the long-term security of UBIG, Fedotovas replied: “I believe UBIG is as secure as it was. Obviously, there were a number of changes but I don’t think these changes have an impact on Hearts. We hope there will not be an impact on Hearts. We are waiting on some clarification from the bank in Lithuania but this has not yet been available to us. It will be available soon.
“We believe the club’s medium-term future is secure. We all know we need to work for better options in the long term. We were a customer of Ukio Bankas. There were changes to Ukio Bankas and we are waiting to hear what is happening with us as a customer of Ukio Bankas.”
Ukio Bankas’ assets and liabilities have been transferred to Siauliu Bankas, including a £6.8m floating charge secured against Tynecastle, after Ukio became insolvent. However, Fedotovas does not believe the stadium will be sold. “We believe it is not what they are going to do (about the debt) because we believe there is a facility in place,” said Fedotovas. “Unless the sun explodes and the earth is burned away, we believe that facility will remain in place. The priority is not to try and sell the club. The priority is to steer the club into a safe financial future and better football performance. Selling the club is something different.”