London Hearts Supporters Club

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Deans vows to give Romanov a grilling


LESLIE Deans, the former chairman of Hearts who, along with fellow businessman, Robert McGrail, owns 18 per cent of the shares in the Tynecastle club, yesterday promised to put searching questions to owner Vladimir Romanov and share the answers with fellow shareholders and supporters before reaching a decision on whether or not to sell the Lithuanian their stake.

Deans hopes to meet face to face with Romanov before the end of the week.

The Edinburgh solicitor has been told, however, that the owner may not be back in Edinburgh until Saturday when he will attend the SPL match against Dundee United at Tynecastle. Following the dismissals of manager George Burley, chief executive Phil Anderton and the resignation as chairman of George Foulkes, Romanov is out of town, assisting in the search for Burley's successor.

Although understanding of the demands placed on Romanov's time this week, Deans is ready to talk with the owner at short notice. Preferring to use even-tempered language and keen to give the banker an opportunity to tell his side of the story, Deans has also promised to issue a public statement after that meeting.

A key figure along with McGrail as Romanov strives to acquire the 75 per cent stakeholding in Hearts which would allow the East European branded a 'dictator' by Foulkes to take the club back into private ownership, Deans is currently appraising his position after a period when he was an unstinting ally of the Romanov revolution.

In order to re-register Hearts as a private limited company and stop trading shares on the Stock Exchange, Romanov needs the backing of Deans and McGrail. When Romanov first announced his offer to value shares at 35p and the club itself at £4.42 million, it was understood both Edinburgh businessmen were ready to support the owner's ambition to achieve the level of control at Tynecastle which would enable him to delist from the Stock Exchange and promote Hearts as a private business.

Now, it has emerged Deans and McGrail want persuasive answers to their questions about the future stewardship of the club before they could consider offering Romanov their backing and sell him their shares.

"When I first heard the news about George and Phil, I went on record as saying I was surprised," admitted Deans yesterday. "There was a radio report that said I was 'disappointed' and had 'angrily demanded' a meeting. The truth is I didn't used the word disappointed , nor did I say I was angry. What I said was I was surprised.

"The Scotsman correctly reported that I wanted to learn the facts and was seeking a meeting with Vladimir Romanov. Between us, Robert and I own 18 per cent of the company's equity. Since the offer document is due out shortly, Robert and I believe we are entitled to that meeting.

"Now, I don't want in any way to talk down the concerns of others. But I'm hopeful that the questions I can ask about the club's medium-term and long-term strategy are at least as wide ranging as anyone else's, both from a business angle and the supporters' point of view.

"Right now, I'm still waiting to see if and when we can get this meeting with Mr Romanov. I believe he is in London on Hearts' business this week. He's due back on Saturday and I've made it clear that I'm around and if something can be arranged then I'll be delighted to sit down with him. After that, I will make a statement. I don't want to pre-judge anything, but if I don't get satisfactory answers then you can be sure I won't hold back. In those circumstances, my statement could be even more damning than George Foulkes'. On the other hand, we have to listen to what he has to say. Given that Robert and I speak for 18 per cent of the shares, we are the only shareholders left [other than Romanov] of any real substance."

Like many with an interest in Hearts, Deans was sad to see Foulkes resign and felt the chairman was doing an important job. As to the chief executive's position, Deans appreciates businesses must sometimes make tough decisions. He recalled how, when Rangers recently relieved Campbell Ogilvie of duties, there was nothing like the heated controversy generated by the departure of Anderton.

Deans, though, would not challenge the perception that the loss of Anderton and Foulkes, coming so soon after the departure of Burley, has created a climate of upheaval and uncertainty in Gorgie which left Hearts' shareholders and supporters alike seeking explanations about where on earth the club goes from here.

A long-term supporter of Romanov until the controversial events of the last two weeks, Deans will reserve judgment on his stewardship of the club until he hears from the Lithuanian himself. That said, the former chairman was quick to caution against any misplaced sense of nostalgia for Chris Robinson's tenure in charge at Tynecastle.

Taken from the Scotsman

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