Hearts' most important summer signing may already be in place at Tynecastle
New players remain conspicuous by their absence at Tynecastle Park right now. However, Hearts may have already secured their most important signing of the summer.
Adding the multi-millionaire investment expert James Anderson to the club’s board could be one of the shrewdest moves of owner Ann Budge’s tenure. He officially takes up a role as an independent non-executive director on July 1.
“Hearts is incredibly fortunate to have James’ continued support. The value of his business acumen and his advice in driving forward the long-term ambitions of the club cannot be over-stated,” said Budge when announcing Anderson’s imminent arrival.
The Edinburgh club received £11.75million in donations from benefactors since 2017 and Anderson has been the largest overall contributor. Now in his early 60s, he is due to retire as an investment manager at Baillie Gifford in April next year, which may allow him more time to devote to Hearts.
“I’m delighted and I welcome him with open arms. James Anderson has had a major effect on Hearts as a benefactor,” said Les Deans, the former Tynecastle chairman. “Without his input, a number of things wouldn’t have taken place at the club.
“Somebody with his knowledge and experience joining the board will undoubtedly strengthen it for the future. The challenges the club face going forward are as strong as ever so I’m really happy seeing him on board. I have dealt with his company but I don’t know him on a personal basis.”
Attracting new investment
Anderson is not there to invest cash on Hearts’ behalf but his corporate knowledge can only be of benefit. If he attracts fresh investment to the club in years to come, so much the better. His reputation in that area is second to none.
He is described as the “star stock-picker” of Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford’s Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust. The SMIT is listed on the FTSE-100 and has delivered investors 1,700 per cent in returns during more than two decades with Anderson in charge.
He earned massive profit by spotting the early potential of emerging technology firms like Tesla, Amazon and Alibaba. His conviction saw him stake considerable sums which grew exponentially. Anderson initially started buying Tesla shares for around $6 each in 2013. Today, those shares are going for $610.
It is that intuition Hearts will intend to harness in the long term. “Somebody with his track record, which is first-class, brings so much experience,” added Deans. “Allied to that, he is still relatively young. The fact he has now accepted the invitation to join the board is a clear demonstration of his ongoing commitment to Hearts.
“He clearly didn’t see it as something he would do once and then step back from. He clearly sees his involvement as an ongoing thing and I think it’s something all Hearts people will welcome greatly.”
Anderson’s mind is not all figures and number-crunching, though. While monitoring stocks, shares and insane amounts of cash, his passion for Hearts is clear. He and wife Morag have been acquaintances of Budge for some time and are firmly behind her stewardship in Gorgie.
The club’s return to the Scottish Premiership – now the Cinch Scottish Premiership thanks to a new five-year deal with the online car marketplace as title sponsor – is intended to be a major turning point after seasons of underachievement on the field of play.
It also coincides with the businessman’s move from stand to directors’ box. There are emotional ties as well as financial ones.
“I think he’s become a Jambo like the rest of us,” chuckled Deans. “Some of us have it in the blood from an early age, some of us acquire it as we get a bit older. I think it has affected James like it affects thousands of others.
Make the right playing decisions
“It’s superb that somebody with his input and business expertise is joining the board. It can only be for the good of the club going forward.
“It means that another experienced business brain will be round the table to help shape future business decisions. Football clubs need to make the correct business decisions in the same way that they need to make the right playing decisions.”
Few clubs illustrate that statement better than Hearts over the last ten years. Budge helped the club recover from the devastation of administration in 2014 but recently stepped back as day-to-day figurehead. That responsibility now lies with chief executive Andrew McKinlay.
Budge will still chair the boardroom into which Anderson steps next month. His arrival just as Budge becomes less front-facing at Hearts might have raised some eyebrows among supporters, but the two moves are understood to be coincidental.
Deans sees no reason why the two should be connected. “I don’t read any great significance in that. Ann made the decision that she was going to step back from day-to-day involvement and she appointed a chief executive in Andrew McKinlay,” he stated.
“A number of the things she would previously have done are no longer under her day-to-day control. That enables Ann to take a step back and it strengthens the board overall.
“She will still, I imagine, be able to have her input but good business expertise is vital. That is what James will bring. It will definitely be to the club’s benefit going forward.”
Anderson won’t be on the pitch, in the dressing room or at the training ground. Yet he could still be one of Hearts most significant signings of recent years.