Ann Budge holding detailed review of Hearts staff

Ann Budge is line to be the new chairwoman of Hearts. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Ann Budge is line to be the new chairwoman of Hearts. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Prospective Hearts owner Ann Budge is currently conducting a detailed review of the club as she prepares to become chairwoman, including assessing every member of football and non-football staff.

The millionaire Edinburgh businesswoman is keen to protect her investment after Foundation of Hearts confirmed she is bankrolling their £2.5million takeover.

Budge, who made her fortune in IT, has consulted the former Hearts manager Craig Levein about her plans and sought advice on football matters to ensure she is ready to take control once a transfer of shares is completed. The 65-year-old is the sole director of BIDCO (1874) Limited, the company which will run Hearts before handing over to the Foundation within five years after the £2.5m loan has been repaid.

The Evening News first revealed in November 2012 that Budge was providing the money for the fans’ proposed takeover. Until now, the Foundation have been reluctant to publicly confirm this as fact. Budge is expected to be installed as Hearts’ new chairwoman before the end of April, provided the club emerge from administration and their majority shareholding is transfered from Lithuanian companies Ukio Bankas and Ukio Bankas Investment Group (UBIG).

However, she is not expected to make wholesale changes immediately. Recent months have seen her ask members of staff for detailed job descriptions and consult Levein about the pitfalls of contract negotiations and other football-related issues. Budge, a Tynecastle season-ticket holder, will take time before making any changes but is already prepared for the likelihood that Hearts will be relegated to the Championship at the end of the season.

She is eager to ensure the Edinburgh club can spring back into the top flight at the first time of asking and Levein has helped her prepare for a rebuilding job at Tynecastle. It remains to be seen if she decides a change of management is necessary, for there are no concrete plans in place for now.

Budge will appoint her own board upon taking control and the Foundation will be represented on it. The fans’ umbrella group will provide up to £1m of funding to help meet costs between now and the summer – that will come from cash pledges from over 7800 fans which have been collected over the last six months.

Those pledges – totalling £1.4m a year – will help run Hearts while Budge is in control. Her loan will start to be repaid after a two-year bedding-in period, with the Foundation expected to be in full control no later than five years from now.