I'll buy Hearts! Massone fronts new 4.5m bid for stricken club
00:12 GMT, 16 November 2012
Former Livingston owner Angelo Massone has entered the race to save Hearts after lodging a 4.5million bid for the club.
A Rome-based lawyer, Massone is mediating on behalf of an Italian consortium which has tabled a formal offer to lawyers representing Tynecastle owner Vladimir Romanov.
Sportsmail has been told the group will be headed by a professor of economics, with an Edinburgh-born Italian-Scots business figure also ready to invest.
In the running: Angelo Massone wants to buy struggling Hearts
Massone’s brief and controversial reign at Livingston ended in acrimony in 2009.
In a quest to reassure Hearts fans, however, the 41-year-old insists the investment consortium will sign a percentage of shares over to them and would appoint supporter representatives to a board of directors.
Facing outstanding tax bills worth 2.2m and a 2m annual shortfall, Romanov has already rejected an offer by the Foundation of Hearts fans group, led by businessman Alex Mackie, to pay the smaller tax bill of 450,000 in return for control of the club.
Informal discussions suggest the bid by the Italian consortium — tabled on condition of Hearts being delivered debt and liability free — will also fall short of Romanov’s valuation.
Awaiting a formal response to the offer however, Massone offered to pool financial resources with Foundation of Hearts in order to end Romanov’s seven-year reign.
Massone told Sportsmail: ‘Together with the other investors, we have written to Mr Romanov’s lawyer with a formal offer.
Will he sell Vladimir Romanov
‘We do not know how much Mr Romanov wants for the club. But I believe there is no one else in Scotland who can match the value of the offer we have made.
‘But I will only come back to Scottish football if I have the support and trust of a club’s supporters. That is vitally important to me.
‘I am willing and able to bring serious, wealthy, respected investors to Scottish football. We want to save Hearts and develop the club and make them a strong force once more.
‘But we also want the supporters to have democratic representation on the board and be the real owners of the club.
‘There is an opportunity at Hearts to turn them into a major challenger to Celtic. With Rangers in the Third Division, we can help with the budget and use our contacts to bring important international players to the club and develop the youths.
‘In terms of money and budget we can put a team on the park which can compete at the very highest level.’
Hearts averted a winding-up order by agreeing a payment plan with HMRC earlier this week. In tandem with Supporters Direct chief Paul Goodwin, Foundation of Hearts are continuing talks with Romanov’s representative Sergejus Fedotovas with a view to agreeing a fan-ownership scheme. Via a new website, the group have appealed to fans across the globe to pledge cash support.
Massone insists he is also keen to win
the trust of supporters after an ill-fated Livingston experience by
handing fans groups a 10 per cent stake in the club, with a view to
handing it over to them in the fullness of time.
Tough times: John McGlynn is prepared for an exodus
‘If we are not successful with our bid, then I am willing to help Hearts supporters to own the club instead.
‘If Foundation of Hearts or Supporters Direct need financial help in terms of money to realise the dream of the fans owning the club, then I will speak seriously with them.’
Sportsmail understands that, despite reports, former Rangers bidder Brian Kennedy has no plans to move for the club.
Meantime, Hearts boss John McGlynn says he is bracing himself for a major January exodus of players whose contracts end in the summer — including Andy Webster, Marius Zaliukas and Andy Driver — as the club plans to further slash its wage bill to avoid going bust.