THE battle for Hibernian has taken a dramatic twist with three factions seeking to gain control of the club.

Last night a supporters' group launched an initiative that it hopes will lead to fan ownership at the Edinburgh club, but there are still two suitors on the sidelines.

An unidentified businessman is thought to be in talks with Sir Tom Farmer, owner of the club, and Rod Petrie, the non-executive chairman, over a possible buyout while David Low, the financial advisor, confirmed to Herald Sport last night that he might resurrect his attempt to lead a £3.5m takeover.

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The mystery potential buyer is thought to be amenable to brokering a deal that would give Farmer and Petrie money or shares for their agreement to sell the club. However, Low was last night clear on two points. He said: "First, there is a myth that Hibs are a club that has performed well financially. That does not survive scrutiny and I would not be prepared to reward under-achievement. All money should go into efforts to help the club move forward.

"Second, I would consider increasing the offer for the club but only if I was assured of the unambiguous support of the fans. They are crucial to any strategy for the club." "

Farmer owns 90% of the shares in HFC Holdings Ltd, Hibs' parent company, while Petrie holds 10%.

The bid by Low, on behalf of a consortium thought to include former Hibs chairman Malcolm McPherson, was turned down because it was "not in the best interests of the club."

The pressure on the club was increased last night by Forever Hibernian. Paul Kane, the former Hibs player and spokesman of Forever Hibernian, said fans were ready to launch a community-based takeover, describing Hibs as a club "on its knees".

Supporters Direct Scotland (SDS) is running a survey on their website aimed at gauging the opinion of supporters. Among the topics tackled are whether fans are seeking representation on the board, if they would be willing to contribute to a paid membership scheme and whether supporters would actively participate in a bid

to buy the club outright.

Leeann Dempster, chief executive of the club, has already expressed a willingness to work towards community ownership or fan representation on the board.

The result of the survey will be announced later this month. Kane said that if the survey showed support for a new model of ownership then he will oversee the creation of a united fans' group with "the ultimate aim of a supporters' trust running the club."