Hibs’ plans to widen supporter ownership today took another significant step forward with the unveiling of a simplified way in which fans can buy shares in the Easter Road club.
A newly-created company, Hibernian Supporters Limited (HSL), has been established with the sole purpose of acquiring shares in the Capital outfit to enable the holding company’s interest to be diluted below a level of 50 per cent.
Charlie Reid, of the Proclaimers is one of the founding directors. He said: “Fan ownership has been on my agenda for a long time to ensure that the Club is in the hands of those who love it most, the fans. Hibernian Supporters Limited gives us all this opportunity and we need to grasp it firmly. In our 140th year, it will be the fans that can ensure another 140 years by taking stewardship of the Club through supporting Hibernian Supporters Limited buying up as many shares as it can.
“I am backing it and I encourage all Hibs fans to do the same.”
A binding agreement between HSL and the club guarantees the transfer on receipt of funds with that money only used to further sporting ambitions and none of that cash going towards the existing 1700 shareholders or the holding company, the ultimate aim being to raise up to £2.5million.
By making contributions to HSL, with annual contributions set at a minimum of £225 or £18.75 per month, supporters will not own shares directly but own Hibernian Supporters Ltd, which in turn will own the shares in the club until all the shares it can buy from the football club have been acquired.
The move is viewed as a simple alternative to fans owning shares directly which would require individuals to comply with rigorous Financial and Markets Act 2000 regulations which would mean them needing to be assessed as “unsophisticated investors” by an independent financial advisor.
The new company will be chaired by Kenny MacAskill, MSP for Edinburgh East and former justice minister in the Scottish Government, with founding directors including Reid, former Hibs star Jackie McNamara, ex-Hibs director Stephen Dunn and chief executive Leeann Dempster. Businessmen James Adie and Gordon Smith are also involved while Easter Road legend Pat Stanton has given the innovative move his backing.
It is intended to launch fundraising on February 2 following the club’s annual general meeting the previous week at which the identities of the two supporters who have been elected by their fellow fans as non-executive directors are expected to be revealed.
Details of how to participate and contribute to the new scheme will be available on HSL’s website which will go live that day but, in the meantime, the new company’s objectives and articles of association can be found on www.hiberniansupporters.co.uk
Today’s announcement is the latest step in what has been a long and complex move towards fans owning up to 51 per cent of their club, Hibs having previously revealed work on the proposal has been underway for the better part of a year.
MacAskill said today: “This is the start of an important journey that will lead to our Club being in the hands of its supporters. The journey can be shortened by the Hibernian family coming together supporting this important initiative. The more supporters who donate to Hibernian Supporters Limited the more shares we can buy. Our objectives are simple; to buy and hold shares for the benefit of supporters of our great Club.
“While we aim to launch the fundraising on 2 February 2015, we will seek to make as much information available as possible through our website and by meeting as many supporters as we can. This is an important day in the history of our Club. We want all supporters to grasp the opportunity and help us buy as many shares as we possibly can, because the more shares we acquire the more influence and a voice we will have.”
Dempster said: “We said in December our aim was to widen the ownership in the club and that is exactly what we are doing. Wider ownership means that Hibernian is owned by people to whom it means the most, the supporters. I have a track record of supporting wider involvement and ownership and I am pleased that HSL can give this opportunity.”