Billionaire Foley speaks about Hibs bid - what fans need to know

Hampden authorities asked to green light deal
Foley is seeking a minority stake in Easter Road clubFoley is seeking a minority stake in Easter Road club
Foley is seeking a minority stake in Easter Road club

Billionaire bidder Bill Foley believes Hibs need his "help" to become established as challengers to Scottish football's big two - and he's hoping the SFA board give the green light to his investment. Clearance by the Hampden authorities today would take Hibs one step closer to a potentially giant leap forward.

And, speaking on radio station TalkSport today, Foley emphasised the benefits of the Easter Road club being part of Bournemouth's ambitious recruitment and player development programme. The American, who owns the Premier League club, holds a stake in FC Lorient and has just been granted a licence for a new A-League franchise, said: “We're going through the process with the Scottish Premier League (sic) and the Scottish Football Association to ensure that we're doing things properly and that we're doing them in a way that they're happy with our participation. 

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“We're not going to be a controlling shareholder, we're going to be an investor but we certainly want to coordinate acquisition and disposition of players with Hibs and I know they can use the help.”

Head coach Nick Montgomery spoke for the first time about the potential investment this afternoon, the Yorkshireman giving the news a guarded welcome as he said: “It’s good to hear for any manager, any club, to get any sort of investment. That’s always positive. There is a lot of talk around it but, until it’s confirmed, nothing changes here. That’s stuff above my remit. I don’t really need to know. But hopefully things go well on that front."

As the office bearers consider the issues flagged up when Foley’s interest was first reported here six weeks ago, then, what do Hibs fans need to know? And when might they see their team benefit from Foley’s financial might?

There are definite advantages to this for Hibs

According to football finance expert Kieran Maguire, the upsides to the deal are obvious for Hibs, who just need a “nudge in the right direction” to establish themselves as prime challengers to Scottish football’s Big Two. As Maguire put it: “And, if you are regularly finishing third in the SPFL, which means getting into the Europa League Conference at the very least, you’re going to be making money out of reaching the group stages of a UEFA competition.”

The American billionaire has a plan

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This guy doesn’t do anything half hearted. From leading the Las Vegas Knights to Stanley Cup glory to revolutionising the fortunes of Bournemouth, now firmly established in the Premier League, Foley is a serious player in the world of sports.

Foley poses with his Stanley Cup-winning Las Vegas team in June of 2023.Foley poses with his Stanley Cup-winning Las Vegas team in June of 2023.
Foley poses with his Stanley Cup-winning Las Vegas team in June of 2023.

He has spoken openly about the benefits he would get from making a relatively small investment – compared to the hundreds of millions require to effect change in his major sporting interests – in a Scottish club and shaking up the established order north of the Border.  In exchange for the sort of money Bournemouth would drop in agents’ fees during a busy transfer window, he gets a stake in a team virtually guaranteed to play in Europe every season.

Hibs will be part of a bigger picture

Recently laying out his recruitment model for the A-League franchise, Foley talked about players being able to “move on, go to Scotland. If they can go to the top of the pyramid, then they go to Bournemouth in the Premier League. If a player wants to move on, I don’t want him to move to Liverpool or Arsenal — I want him to move to us.”

Putting more flesh on the bones of this model, Maguire explained: “So you have a player who shows promise but he’s not quite ready for the first team. You want this player to get match time and he’s not getting that by playing with the under-21s in the EFL Cup. Hibs offer competitive football and decent crowds, so the player can get used to an environment where they’ll be playing in big games.

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“It could well be that the players he wants for Bournemouth don’t have a work permit. You bring them to Hibernian, who are qualifying for the Europa League or Conference League. In terms of the governing body endorsement points, that helps – and you now have a player with a pathway through to the Premier League. So there are advantages in the model.

“As long as you’re not seen as just a feeder club. That would rile the fans, especially a club as proud as Hibernian, being seen as a feeder for – no disrespect to Bournemouth – a club who don’t have anything like their heritage.”

There are questions about ‘dual/triple/quadruple interest’

The fact that Foley’s Black Knight group has a controlling interest in Bournemouth, a minority stake in French club Lorient AND a licence for a new A-League club to be based in New Zealand raises obvious issues.  He's also trying to do a deal in the Netherlands that would further expand his portfolio.

Hibs are confident, however, that restricting Foley to a non-controlling interest means the SFA board – who consider these matters on a case-by-case basis – will see the benefits in giving them the green light. With UEFA already having relaxed their rules on multi-club investments, the tide is heading in only one direction.

This is NOT a takeover

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The Gordon family will remain in control of Hibs. Late chairman Ron Gordon’s wishes were that his son, Ian, and widow Kit would retain a majority stake in the club he acquired from Sir Tom Farmer in 2019. That’s crucial.

The next steps …

The basic principles of this agreement didn’t take long to hammer out. Both parties are happy to proceed. Whether or not the deal will be done in time to impact on the January transfer window – the most obvious opportunity to deliver proof of concept to sceptical fans – is, of course, the question everyone would like answered.

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