Sir Tom Farmer: The legacy Hibs saviour leaves behind

Born in Leith 78 years ago, Sir Tom Farmer made no secret of the fact he had no great love for football.

Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 10:59 am
Sir Tom Farmer takes in a Hibs match at Easter Road
Sir Tom Farmer takes in a Hibs match at Easter Road

But he stepped in to buy Hibs in 1990 to avoid a hostile takeover from then Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer, adamant it was important to the local community that the club should continue to exist, learning at that point that his grandfather had saved the Easter Road outfit from bankruptcy approximately 100 years earlier.

Despite his investment of around £3 million to rescue the club from receivership, the founder of Kwik-Fit rarely attended matches and with Rod Petrie as chairman taking charge of business he was content to be a figure very much in the background.

There’s no doubt, however, that without Farmer, who owned 90 per cent of the club, behind them, the complete rebuilding of Easter Road - in three stages - would have been unlikely.

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The Famous Five and South Stands were completed in 1995, the Main Stand followed in 2001 and in 2010 the East Stand opened, taking the ground’s capacity to 20,421.

A new training centre, costing £5 million, was opened at East Mains, between Tranent and Ormiston in 2007 while three years earlier the club’s debt was renegotiated and replaced with an interest free loan from Farmer.

On the field there were ups and downs, a Skol Cup triumph in 1991 followed by relegation in 1998, Hibs immediately bouncing back, before the CIS League Cup was won in 2007.

However, relegation again in 2014 provoked a furious response from supporters although, with Leeann Dempster stepping in as chief executive, it began an upward curve in the club’s fortunes.

Yes, it took three years to climb back out of the Championship but by that time that 114-year elusive chase for the Scottish Cup had come to an end and Hibs now find themselves back, firmly established as a top six club with the ambition to strive for greater heights.

Throughout the years Farmer never made a secret of the act he was willing to sell Hibs. However, he maintained his stance that any new owners would have to be right for the club, the few approaches which were made all having been rebuffed under that criteria.