Hibs reject 'feeder club' tag after billionaire Bournemouth owner buys minority stake - and seats on the board

Joined at the hip. Hibs defender Rocky Bushiri and Bournemouth's Kieffer Moore in action during last July's pre-season friendly. How close are the two clubs now that Foley's bought two seats on the Easter Road board?Joined at the hip. Hibs defender Rocky Bushiri and Bournemouth's Kieffer Moore in action during last July's pre-season friendly. How close are the two clubs now that Foley's bought two seats on the Easter Road board?
Joined at the hip. Hibs defender Rocky Bushiri and Bournemouth's Kieffer Moore in action during last July's pre-season friendly. How close are the two clubs now that Foley's bought two seats on the Easter Road board? | SNS Group
Gordon family knocked back full takeover bids before giving Foley green light

Hibs will never become a “feeder club” under the terms of the agreement that has seen them join billionaire Bournemouth owner Bill Foley’s stable of footballing interests, according to Easter Road CEO Ben Kensell. And the chief executive revealed that the Gordon family had knocked back offers from more than one English club – because all wanted to take total control of the Easter Road outfit.

Foley’s £6 million up front, the immediate pay-off from the buy-in approved at last week’s AGM, buys him a 25 per cent stake in Hibs, with Kit and Ian Gordon’s overall holding diluted to just over 60 per cent by the issuing of new shares. But the family of late chairman Ron Gordon are adamant that they never looked to sell out completely.

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And Kensell bristled at the suggesting that Hibs slotting into Foley’s Black Knight Football Group framework – which also includes a stake in French club Lorient and the licence for a new A-League team in Auckland – would make the Scottish Premiership side just another cog in the machine, useful for helping develop players aimed for the Premier League, the CEO pointing out: “Well feeder club is your words, not mine. Because we’re not a feeder club. We’re part of a network.

“No-one is going to be feeding us because guess what? The Gordon family own the football club. They have control.

“So there is no such thing as a feeder club in this, and we’ve never used that terminology with Bill. There has been no such discussion around Bournemouth feeding anyone.

“It’s a collaborative relationship that we will benefit from, and they will benefit from. And other clubs within the network will benefit from it.

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“But, if we don’t believe that it benefits Hibs specifically, we won’t do it. And we’ll look outside of that network for the way forward, on the pitch or off the pitch. Simple as that.”

Foley will be entitled to two seats on the board and has spoken openly about being able to "help" Hibs in the transfer market, having declared his intent - as first revealed here back in October - to make the club the undisputed third force in Scottish football. But he won't have the final say on loan deals or recruitment.

Asked if there had been discussions with more than one English club, Kensell pointed out: “Yes, there were. There were discussions with multiple suitors, but some wanted full control and ownership, which wouldn’t be appropriate or allowed in Scottish football because of Article 13 (the SFA rule governing dual ownership). Also that was never on the table, never discussed. As soon as we understood what the priority was of those suitors, it was off the table.”

On breaking new ground by becoming the first Scottish club to join a multi-team outfit in any guise, Kensell said: “I think it’s pioneering, definitely. I think it’s game changing and ground-breaking for Scottish football. I think it is in keeping with what we do as a football club.

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“But we’re not doing it for that reason. We just happen to be the first club to do it. But we’re proud of that.

“And we want to continuing being trailblazers – for the right reasons. As long as it benefits the fans and the football club, and moves us forward, we’ll be unified in belief that it’s the right thing to do."

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