Hearts Saved From Liquidation
Ann Budge has thanked the Hearts support for their backing after the Gorgie club struck a deal to finally end their administration hell.
The Edinburgh outfit's largest creditor Ukio Bankas - which held a 29.5 per cent stake in the Jambos as well as security on their Tynecastle home - have agreed to sell their shares to Budge's Bidco company in a £2.5million deal.
Millionaire IT specialist Budge will now become Hearts' new chairwoman once the club formally exits administration sometime next month but has vowed to hand ownership of the club to the Maroon faithful within five years.
Hearts went into administration in last June with debts of close to £30million after former owner Vladimir Romanov's Lithuanian business empire crumbled.
But with a deal to take possession of majority shareholder UBIG's stake in the club, already agreed by the club's administrators BDO, Budge has agreed to front the cash to pay off Ukio.
The Foundation of Hearts (FoH) fan group and their 8,000 members will now set about raising finance to cover the club's running costs as well as the money to pay back Budge.
``This is the beginning of a new era for Heart of Midlothian Football Club,'' said the 66-year-old.
``I would personally like to express my gratitude to the fans for their support and I am confident that together we can rebuild Heart of Midlothian FC to once again become one of the greatest clubs in the country.
``I am very much looking forward to the beginning of this new chapter in the club's history.
``We are not across the line just yet but this is a very positive step and we are almost there.
``The fans have been magnificent throughout but I would urge them to keep backing the team in their numbers during the last few games to ensure we get to the end of the season.
``The end is now in sight and together I am confident we can achieve our target.''
The 10-month administration process has taken a major toll on the club - both on and off the park.
Hearts were relegated from the Scottish Premiership after boss Gary Locke and his players failed to recover from a 15-point penalty and transfer ban issued at the beginning of the season.
And there were fears the 140-year-old institution could even have been liquidated as the administration process for UBIG and Ukio - both insolvent themselves - dragged on.
But as news broke of the deal with Ukio, a source close to the Gorgie club told Press Association Sport: ``Like any of these processes there may still be a few creases to be ironed out, but this is the club effectively safe from liquidation.
``If everything goes to plan, the club should formally exit administration sometime next month.''
And the share transfer - which once completed will allow Hearts to exit administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement - will also spare the club further footballing penalties ahead of next season's Championship campaign.
FoH chairman Ian Murray, MP said: ``This is fantastic news for the club and all the supporters who have, time after time, shown their support for the club.
``We still need to conclude the legal agreement but there is little doubt that today is the second most important day in the recent history of the club. The most important day will be when we officially exit administration.
``We will continue to work hard to get the final documentation concluded as soon as possible so we can look forward to the future with confidence.
``Thanks to BDO and everyone in Lithuania for getting it to this stage. It will not be forgotten. All I would urge is for all supporters to continue to support the Foundation of Hearts and ensure as many can attend the remaining matches of this momentous season.
``All supporters can have a great deal of self-congratulations tonight in what they have done to save this great club.''
Administrator Bryan Jackson of BDO added: ``I appreciate that many fans will have wondered whether this day would ever come but we have been working tirelessly on behalf of the club to make this deal work.
``There is still some work to be done to conclude proceedings but we are now very close to a successful conclusion of the CVA.
``However, I would caution that there is a cooling off period for the consent for the UBIG creditors which ends on April 28, although not one for Ukio as they have a creditors committee, and we are working to have the sale and purchase agreement concluded, hopefully, before the end of the season.''