FORMER Hearts chairman Leslie Deans is part of a group of businessmen contemplating a buyout of the club’s majority shareholder, Vladimir Romanov.
The Evening News has learned that tentative talks have taken place involving Deans and several other potential investors, although discussions have yet to progress past the preliminary stage.
The takeover would include plans to drastically reduce the Hearts wage bill and return the club to operating at a profit. Wages at Tynecastle currently cost £9million per year, but that could be halved to around £4m-£5m should a change in power take place.
The main focal point of any future buyout involving Deans’ group would be preserving Hearts’ long-term future, reducing the club’s financial outlay and encouraging youth academy players to develop at first-team level.
Romanov is keen to sell the Gorgie club, having become disillusioned with football, which has alerted interested parties including Deans and a selection of associates. No contact has yet been made with Romanov or any of the Hearts board, with further talks necessary between all interested parties before anything can progress.
Romanov has publicly stated that he expects to receive £50m for his Hearts shares but, with debt of around £36m, that figure is unrealistic. Any takeover would have to involve a compromise agreement on both the debt and the land on which Tynecastle stadium currently sits. The club is currently encountering cashflow problems with October’s wages 19 days late and November’s salaries still outstanding.
Deans sold his Hearts shareholding to Romanov as part of the Russian’s takeover in 2005 and the Edinburgh-based property developer has remained heavily involved with the club ever since. He attends matches regularly but it is understood he would be reluctant to return to Tynecastle as chairman again. This time, he would be involved merely as an investor.