Hearts set to become largest fan-owned club in the UK with chair Ann Budge to transfer shares

Hearts will become Britain’s largest fan-owned football club when the Foundation of Hearts group receives Ann Budge’s shares later this month.

The Scottish Premiership club’s chair Budge was due to hand over her majority shareholding last year but financial uncertainty inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic caused her to delay the transfer.

The businesswoman, 73, invested £2.5m of her own capital into the club in 2014 to help Hearts out of administration, and her intention was to hand over the club to supporters over a transitional period.

August 30 will now mark ‘Heart and Soul Day’ which will see the handover of Budge’s shares in Heart of Midlothian plc to the Foundation.

“This is a truly historic occasion for the club and its supporters,” said Foundation of Hearts chairman, Stuart Wallace.

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“The handover has been delayed by the pandemic but the legal details will shortly be completed and we can look forward to Heart of Midlothian becoming the largest fan-owned football club in the country.

A historic milestone for us and for @JamTarts will be reached on 30 August – the end of one journey, the start of another. Very inadequate words but thank you one and all. More on our website here: https://t.co/Cap6zAnXVU pic.twitter.com/oyMVETMh2S

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“This iconic moment in time is not the end of a story but the beginning of a new one. The Foundation and its many pledgers become the custodians of this great club and as we do so, we will rightly celebrate what has happened so far, but more importantly look ahead to what we can continue to achieve to support the club we love.

“We have all been in the blessed position – though it certainly did not appear that way back in the dark days of 2013 – of helping to save our club and ensuring that future generations could experience the ecstasy and yes, the occasional agony, of following Hearts.

“On 30 August, we can all take a moment to reflect on how far we have come together – and in our new custodial role, look forward to ensuring that the next chapter of our story is even more memorable and successful.”

Budge, said: “I feel immensely privileged to have been able to play a part in bringing Hearts ‘back from the brink’ when liquidation threatened in 2013 and I will be forever grateful to the ‘original 5’ for inviting me to join them in their efforts to save the club.

“Like so many thousands of Hearts fans, I had no hesitation in pledging my financial support to the Foundation of Hearts from the outset and like so many others, my pledge is for life. I will continue to support the club, through the Foundation, for as long as I am able.

“Being the majority shareholder of any company brings with it great responsibility. I have shouldered that responsibility willingly for over seven years, supported every step of the way by the Foundation of Hearts. It will now be my great pleasure, in turn, to support the Foundation as they now take on that mantle.

“What we have achieved together is nothing short of remarkable. That togetherness must remain as we look proudly towards the future. We must continue to protect our heritage and our past to safeguard these for future generations. However, more than anything, we must continue to look forward to further develop our club.

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“There are so many opportunities to make Scottish football great again and by standing together we can ensure that Heart of Midlothian football club plays its part. We must ensure that future generations of football supporters can continue to enjoy what we have fought so hard to protect.

“The 30th August will be a truly momentous occasion. It is the day we deliver on what we set out to achieve; the day Hearts becomes the largest fan-owned football club in the UK. So many said it could never be done. Well, together we have done it. Thank you all. Now, let’s go on to achieve even more.”

Hearts, who were promoted back to the Premiership last season, won their first two games of the league season but lost 3-2 to Celtic in the second round of the Scottish League Cup on Sunday. Robbie Neilson’s team play Aberdeen this Sunday in their next match (kick-off 3pm).

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