Hearts owner to cut losses on old bank building

Vladimir Romanov could be left millions of out of pocket when he sells the former RBS HQ
Vladimir Romanov could be left millions of out of pocket when he sells the former RBS HQ
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Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov is set to take a multi-million pound hit as he prepares to sell off a historic bank building he bought at the height of the economic boom.

Romanov’s investment company UBIG bought the former Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters – which includes one A-listed building in St Andrew Square that is linked by a bridge to another more modern building in West Register Street – for around £20 million in 2007 in order to turn them into a boutique hotel.

But the company is now selling off the West Register Street part of the site to a hotel developer and is also understood to be willing to listen to offers for the historic main building next door as it attempts to bring in much-needed funds.

The Evening News understands the buildings at 38-52 West Register Street are now under offer to a hotel developer, with a deal expected to be concluded in the coming months.

Property experts say that the buildings – which have been lying empty for years – will be lucky to bring in half the £20m figure they were bought for.

Charles Guest, a partner at property firm Ryden, said: “It is a magnificant site and if it was in London it would, ironically, be the headquarters of some foreign bank but there’s not a lot of demand for that here. He [Romanov] paid a top of the market price for it at the top of the market and hence lies the problem. He’ll be lucky if he gets as much as half that now.”

The main building dates back to 1942 and remained the headquarters of RBS until 2006, when it opened its new Gogarburn campus. The West Register Street building, which was used for RBS administrative functions, is a more modern addition and was expected to be refurbished by UBIG, but a planning application has never been submitted.

Mark Jones, a director at property firm DTZ, which is responsible for selling the West Register Street building on behalf of UBIG, said: “It is a good quality core city centre site close to the station and the trams when they are operational, with links to the airport.

“It is also an internationally well-known location and all these factors make it attractive to retail, hotel, office or whatever else.”

The West Register Street building includes a retail unit on the ground floor and offices above, as well as a Greggs bakery, and stretches back as far as the Cafe Royal.

The other building, at 42 St Andrew Square, was added to Scotland’s Buildings At Risk Register because of concerns about “signs of deterioration” and its lengthy spell of being vacant.

Cllr Tom Buchanan, the city’s economic development leader, said: “Like gap sites, you don’t want buildings lying empty for considerable amounts of time.

“We would be keen to see some form of development around that site and if a hotel operator came forward we would not discourage that.

“It would add to the living nature of the street because more people would be about the street for longer.

“I am sure UBIG would also be keen to get some return on the investment they made at the top of the market.”