Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov confirmed to RIA Novosti on Thursday that he is selling the club and quitting football entirely, ending weeks of speculation on the future of the Tynecastle club.
The Russian-born Lithuanian said he has begun the hunt for potential buyers of the Scottish Premier League side, who are thought to be 35 million pounds in debt.
“I want to leave football. I have given the order to find buyers for all my clubs,” Romanov told RIA Novosti. Romanov has had a stormy tenure since arriving in Edinburgh in 2005, earning a hire-them-and-fire-them reputation for going through eight managers in six years.
“I want to buy a theater and sell the clubs,” he said. “Hearts is controlled by Murdoch’s media mafia,” he said in reference to Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Corp., which controls Sky television, the sport’s top broadcast rights holder.
Romanov is also a majority shareholder of Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas and Belarusian club Partizan Minsk. It was not clear which theater Romanov was interested in buying.
Romanov earlier this month complained that the media were undermining the club and threatened to sell if no investors could be found to pump in extra funds. The club’s directors responded in a statement that “Romanov has confirmed that he will stand by the club and continue to support it.”
The news comes a day after Hearts announced their players would not be paid on time due to the financial difficulties. They said in a statement they were trying to “obtain funding” to make the payments.
Romanov, who made his fortune in manufacturing and banking, bought Hearts with the aim of blooding young talent from Lithuania and splitting the Old Firm dominance of Glasgow Rangers and Celtic. His net worth is reported to stand at 200 million pounds.
The closest he came was in 2006, when Hearts finished runner-up to champions Celtic and Rangers came third.