A SCANDINAVIAN consortium seeking to buy Hearts expects to pay between £5 million and £10m to gain control of the club.
Four Norwegian and two Swedish businessmen want to take over a debt-free Hearts with no Lithuanian connections, although it will be several weeks before they decide whether to make a formal offer.
The group has a lawyer and consultant working in Lithuania on its behalf and is currently in talks with the Kaunas-based Ukio Bankas Investment Group (UBIG), which owns 79 per cent of Hearts. The consortium is also speaking with potential administrators of UBIG after the company declared itself insolvent last week, plus Ukio Bankas administrators, creditors and local authorities. Of Hearts’ £25m debt, £10m is owed to UBIG and £15m to Ukio Bankas.
The Scandinavians’ plan would be to offer a cash payment for the majority shareholding without any debt and become Hearts’ new owners, and they have between £5m and £10m available. “That valuation is not completely wrong,” said a source close to the consortium today.
“We have a strategy for how to get the shareholding. Whether it will work is another question. There is the possibility some of the shareholding could be transferred to Ukio Bankas. As far as we know, that transaction hasn’t happened yet so the shares are still formally owned by UBIG. Our strategy involves taking over a club which is free of debt to Ukio Bankas and UBIG. Obviously that is going to take some sort of cash payment to deal with the current debt. How big that cash payment will be is still an open question.
“What is very clear is that the consortium would not enter a deal where Ukio Bankas or UBIG would maintain any of the debt after a deal was done. If there is any debt left, it would not be to those parties. That part of it would need to be closed completely.
“We have not negotiated a price, we are not anywhere close to that yet. Probably not a lot is going to happen until the UBIG situation is resolved. We believe that once things get started we should be in a pretty good position. We think we know the full picture now. The administrators of both parties will have a say in this. There may also be other parties involved.”
The consortium would be able to move “within days” once the picture relating to UBIG becomes clearer. “They wouldn’t take the bother to do all this work for nothing but a decision has not been made. They will walk away if something happens to change the business completely,” said the source.
“They are still investigating whether this could be a profitable business. Once the UBIG situation becomes clear, we would have initial talks to get a feel for what offer should be placed. They could move within days to close negotiations once they decide to make an offer, but we have not reached that point yet. These people are Hearts fans from the outset but they are also businessmen looking to do a good deal. They are not looking to throw their money away.”
Of the group, the four Norwegians have studied in Edinburgh and consider themselves active supporters of Hearts. The youngest member of the consortium is said to be “around 40”, with the oldest in his 60s.
Meanwhile, Hearts manager Gary Locke has held talks with former team-mate David Weir about becoming the club’s new assistant manager. Weir, a youth coach at Everton, is in contention to replace David Moyes at Goodison Park but would consider returning to Tynecastle under Locke.