STUART WALLACE has revealed that a 60 second conversation with Hearts owner Ann Budge was all they needed before snubbing an unwelcome approach from Foster Gillett.
And the Foundation of Hearts (FoH) chairman is adamant he has no intention of even engaging in talks with the U.S. businessman.
Gillett, son of former Liverpool co-owner George, has expressed his interest in providing ‘significant investment’ in the capital club but has received short shrift from those in power at Tynecastle.
The transfer of ownership will take place when a final £100,000 fee is paid on the other side of the Covid-19 crisis.
Gillett would then be forced to negotiate with FoH – and Wallace has made it clear he will not be returning his calls.
Wallace said: “It took a 60 second conversation with Ann [Budge] to say ‘this email has come in – and we’re not interested’.
“Our [FoH] stance is we wouldn’t speak to him. We’re simply not interested and won’t engage with him.
“Our ‘significant investment’ – as he talks about – comes from our supporters; £10.2 million in the last six years. We will continue to build on that. Pledges have gone up again and I would expect we are now at upwards of £1.4 million-a-year from the fans.
“The club itself has a number of benefactors, which they have been open about, and everyone currently in the Hearts equation has the best interests of the club at heart. We have no intention of deviating away from that.”
While Gillett has embarked on a charm offensive, releasing a statement citing his desire to work with the FoH, Wallace is clearly suspicious of his motives and believes any investment would come with a demand of equity.
And with the ruinous reign of Vladimir Romanov – and the £25 million debts which drove the club to the brink of extinction – still fresh in the memory, Wallace says there is no appetite to sell any of their stake.
He continued: “I presume this is people looking around football and thinking ‘there’s a bargain’.
“The Americans have a track record of investing in sports franchises and will perhaps think ‘Hearts’ position is uncertain, let’s make a move’.
“Well, our response is ‘thanks but no thanks’.
“I’m in business myself and I wouldn’t invest a whole lot of money in football unless I was getting significant equity in return. We have no desire to give up that 75.1 per cent equity that the fans have fought so hard for.”
FoH have now racked up more than 1300 additional members since football was halted on March 13 and, based on their average pledge of £16-a-month, that could represent another £250,000 annually for the club’s coffers.
Wallace added: “We have fought hard to get to this point and what we have is precious. It needs nurtured by people who know and understand the club.”