The Evening News asked Hearts director Sergejus Fedotovas about the sale of the club. Here are the Lithuanian’s exclusive answers.
1 What kind of deal is the Hearts board looking for from any new owner? Cash for the majority shareholding? Debt repayment plan? Purchase of Tynecastle Stadium?
Apart from the terms acceptable to the current owners, the buyer will need to demonstrate he is a fit person to run the club and he has a realistic plan for running the club successfully. The current owners did not highlight their preferences of any deal, so a reasonable proposal will have a way forward given it reflects the value of the club and is acceptable in principle. As a possible option, the club may be sold and the stadium may remain in ownership of UBIG and leased to the club. This way, the value of the deal for the football club only will be reduced and debt repayment will be linked to the stadium.
2 Will the new owner of Hearts need to buy UBIG’s majority shareholding outright, and if so, what is the price?
In my view the price is the value of the club acceptable to the present owners. It is normal that every individual sees this value in a different way, but the major thing is that it should be reasonable. Offers we received until now were opportunistic rather than reasonable.
3 Are UBIG willing to write off all of the debt or some of the debt in order to do a deal?
It depends on the deal. If the buyer is willing to get the club for nothing like Foundation of Hearts has tried, then there should be no expectation of the debt being written off. UBIG has acquired the club with a similar amount of debt, similar financial situation by paying a consideration for the shares.
4 The Hearts board must be very pleased with the efforts of the fans so far, raising funds, buying shares and match tickets. Is it more than you expected in such a short time since the share issue began?
The effort is outstanding and in my view represents one of the best support of fans for a football club worldwide. It is what we were aiming for, as it was required to preserve the club. And I need to be clear – we are still trying to reach half way through what is required. Many important challenges lie ahead – we are still short of covering our wage and tax bill undertakings for the season.
5 Do you believe a deal can be done to transfer ownership of Hearts before the end of 2012? Or would it be more realistic for fans to expect a new owner to be in place at some point next year?
Offers received by now fall far away from being reasonable. It is unlikely they will be pursued. Things may change next year if bidders will reconsider their position or new bidders will emerge and I know that some people are actively considering things in the background.
6 You have said you are keen to give the club to the fans, but realistically fans will not be able to raise millions of pounds to buy out Mr Romanov. What do you think a compromise agreement could involve?
A staged transition, combination of owning the club and leasing the stadium or combination of an investor and fan ownership, or a mix. Meanwhile, we are working on improving the business of the club that will make it more competitive and more attractive to investors.
7 Would you be keen to talk more with Foundation of Hearts and Alex Mackie if they were prepared to offer more than £5million to buy the majority shareholding in Hearts?
Getting the club for £5m debt free would be unreasonable, where just several assets of the club are worth much in excess of that. Just Tynecastle Stadium alone is worth much more than £5m. We have a competitive club in SPL, the brand that is well known beyond Scotland. To organise it will take you much more than £5m. I will reiterate – we are prepared to speak to any reasonable buyer. Meanwhile there was no reasonable offer from the Foundation.