London Hearts Supporters Club

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Romanov ups ante in bid for full control


WHILE Hearts' hunt for a new manager goes on, the club's majority shareholder, Vladimir Romanov, will step up his bid to take full control of the club over the next seven days.

Romanov has held a series of meetings across Europe since Monday with a view to replacing manager George Burley, who left Tynecastle two weeks ago, but he has now turned his attentions to increasing his holding in the Edinburgh club.

He wants to revert Hearts into a private company by de-listing from the Stock Exchange, but can only do this when he owns more than 75 per cent of the club's issued share capital.

Romanov announced a fortnight ago that he had agreed a deal to increase his stake in Hearts to 55.5 per cent, an announcement which was almost immediately followed by the news that the manager had left.

The controversial banker's share purchase meant that, under City rules, he is obliged to make an offer at the same price per share, 35 pence, to each remaining stake-holder.

Contrary to reports yesterday, this offer is not due to arrive with shareholders today, but instead a club spokesman confirmed documentation is "on schedule" to be delivered at some point next week, subject to approval from the Stock Exchange and successful meetings with lawyers and financial experts in London over the past 48 hours.

The proposal to shareholders will include details on the formation of a "loyalty club" for supporters who currently enjoy a preferential category for match tickets on account of holding shares.

Potentially even more troublesome for Romanov than those supporters, who in total account for around 20 per cent of the company, is the purchase of the 18 per cent held by former club chairman Leslie Deans and his friend, Robert McGrail.

Ray French, chairman of the Hearts Shareholders Association, said last night: "We have a committee meeting on Monday evening, when we will have a full discussion over Mr Romanov's forthcoming offer.

"Clearly we share the concerns of Hearts supporters. The board proposed this loyalty club already, but we know nothing else about it and even the name is not particularly impressive."

As reported in The Scotsman yesterday, Deans has sought an immediate meeting with Romanov in order to hear for himself what the new Tynecastle regime's plans are, after the swift exits of Burley, Anderton and chairman George Foulkes. It is, therefore, highly unlikely, in the short term at least, that Romanov will enjoy a clear run in his efforts to acquire full control.

Hearts' accounts for year ending 31 July are also due to be released later this month, although these will not include the substantial settlements understood to have been given to Burley and Anderton, who is still negotiating a pay-off which will also include a confidentiality clause similar to the one given to Burley.

Hearts' shares closed last night at 35.5p.

Taken from the Scotsman

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