Ann Budge 'fully committed' to leading Hearts for at least two more years
Ann Budge has told Hearts fans she is prepared to stay at the Tynecastle helm for at least two more years, to continue the club's transition.
In a statement published on the Capital club's website, the Hearts chief executive issued supporters with a "strategic operations" update on the last five years.
Budge is due to hand over her 75.1 per cent shareholding to the Foundation of Hearts (FoH) fan group in spring 2020 but will remain the ultimate authority at Tynecastle Park thereafter.
FoH wants her tenure as CEO to continue beyond the change of ownership, which will place the club into the hands of fans for the first time, but would see Budge have the final say on authorising player signings, academy investment or managerial changes.
Looking ahead to the club's transition to the largest majority fan-owned club in the UK, Budge explained: "I promised to look after the club on behalf of the fans for five years.
"At the end of this current financial year, I will have been filling the joint role of chairman / chief executive for six years. Becoming the largest majority fan-owned club in the UK will require a smooth transition. We absolutely do not want to stand still during this transition.
"To help achieve all of this, I am fully committed to leading the club forward for a minimum of a further two years in order to provide both stability and continued growth and development so that we can continue to reach new heights in both a business and footballing sense."
Budge also updated supporters on the club's progress with a view to targeting top-six finishes, European football and reaching the latter stages of both domestic cup competitions.
Budge wrote: "Our focus must be on further enhancing our already much-improved position, to allow us to continue to compete at the highest level in Scottish football.
"We will achieve this by continuing to focus on long-term continuous improvements and not short-term success. We must never slip back into the bad practices of the past or the poor financial management that almost destroyed the club - no matter what the temptation.
"My view is that this can best be achieved by continuing along our current path. We have a solid plan, a strong board, an excellent executive team, a totally committed workforce and an immensely loyal supporter base.
Budge revealed Hearts had attracted "in excess of £10 million of funding from benefactors", which had been spent on the Save the Children shirt sponsorship, the club's new Innovation Centre, the building work undertaken at Tynecastle and the development and strengthening of the football operation.
Appealing to supporters to continue backing the club financially, Budge added: "As we move forward, the financial and emotional backing of our fans, pledgers and sponsors will remain as vital as ever.
"Please never lose sight of the fact that while we have come a long way, the journey continues. We need our supporters to be “supporters for life” and we need our pledgers to “Pledge for Life”, wherever that is possible."