Hearts owner Ann Budge: I rejected American takeover bid for club
Hearts have rejected a takeover bid from an American-based businessman because owner Ann Budge is committed to placing the club into the hands of supporters.
Budge met a representative of the United States investor in spring this year but refused the offer to sell her 75.1 per cent shareholding in Hearts. She has promised to hand that to the fan-led group Foundation of Hearts next year, although she will stay on as chairwoman thereafter.
The Stateside interest arose before the American-based millionaire Ron Gordon bought control of Hearts’ city rivals Hibs. Budge has since met Gordon but said she is unsure if he was behind the approach to buy Hearts.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, the Edinburgh businesswoman said: “In the spring, I had a conversation with a representative of someone from the States who was interested in investing in a Scottish football club.
“I was happy to have the meeting. I was then able to say up front that Hearts is not available because there is an agreement in place for supporters to take over the club. I genuinely don’t know if it was the same group.
“When I first heard about it [at Hibs], I’ll be honest and say my assumption was that it was the same group because it seemed like a bit of a coincidence. However, there has been a lot of interest in Scottish football clubs so it could well have been a different source.
“That is 100 per cent the truth. I genuinely don’t know if it was the same person. They made it clear they wanted to invest in a club – a club that was going places, which had ambition and had somewhere to move forward. Once I explained the situation with our supporters and the agreement, it became a cosy chat about Scottish football. That was it.”
Gordon invested more than £5million to gain control of Hibs last month through a new company, Bydand Sports. He is eager to grow the club over the coming years and met Budge in person soon after his buyout to discuss the Scottish football landscape.
Budge’s determination to give control of Hearts to the Foundation remains unwavering. FoH are backed by around 8,000 members donating monthly cash which is then reinvested in the club.
They are to become official owners of Hearts towards the end of this season when Budge hands over her shares.
Although FoH will then be in control on supporters’ behalf, she will remain in charge of day-to-day business at Tynecastle Park to ensure as smooth a transition to fan ownership as possible.