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Low consortium bid for control at Hibs rests on approval

Members of the consortium bidding to take control of Hibernian believe they can put together a team capable of challenging Celtic for silverware, but will only proceed with the attempted buy-out if they have the backing of supporters.

David Low promises transparency
David Low promises transparency

David Low, a self-confessed Celtic supporter who aided Fergus McCann's takeover at Parkhead, is helping to spearhead a bid for Hibs from a group of potential investors from the UK and the US that includes former Easter Road chairman Malcolm McPherson and Ralph Lynch, son of the ex-Celtic Nation owner Frank Lynch.

A £3.5m offer for Sir Tom Farmer's 90% stake in the club's parent company, HFC Holdings Ltd, has been pieced together by Low and his associates, although the financial advisor indicated yesterday he did not "expect any early resolution".

With Forever Hibernian, the supporters' group led by former player Paul Kane, having also approached Farmer in an attempt to assume at least a 51% majority shareholding for the fans, sources at the club have stressed there is no active attempt to seek a buyer for the Easter Road outfit.

Low has made it clear his alliance will walk away from their attempted takeover should they fail to convince supporters of their plans for the club.

"If our offer does not have the support of Hibernian's fans it will be withdrawn," said Low yesterday. "In this new environment of a debt-free and financially-level playing field, a football club can only prosper if there is trust and transparency and the board has the support of the club's fans. Fans have never been as important as they are now and if a club is to fulfil its potential there must be a positive relationship amongst all stakeholders."

Aside from McPherson and Lynch, Low is unwilling to reveal the identity of the others involved in the consortium, but he has moved to reassure supporters that, in contrast to Rangers, there will be full transparency should the offer be accepted.

"There's myself and my business partner in this venture in the States, Ralph Lynch, and there are a number of other investors, both here in the UK and in the States," Low explained in an extensive online interview with The Scottish Football Monitor. "I'm not going to give the names of these people just now, unless our offer is accepted and it looks like it's going to proceed.

"At that point, everybody that's involved in the consortium will have their details released. There will be absolute transparency, there will be no Rangers-esque Blue Pitch or Margherita-style 'who owns what? Everything will become crystal clear if the offer is accepted and proceeds. But we will not proceed with our offer if the Hibs fans don't support it, because I consider them to be an essential part of the business model."

Low, who worked in Edinburgh for 12 years and lived in the capital for six years, has explained he was approached by "a couple of friends" from the city who had expressed a desire to launch a buy-out of Hibs.

Relegation from the SPFL Premiership in May and dissatisfaction with the stewardship of the chairman Rod Petrie - who was replaced in the day-to-day running of the club by Leeann Dempster as chief executive this summer - combined with 74-year-old Farmer's advancing years, appear to have stirred up interest from a number of parties in taking over at Easter Road.

However, Low is adamant his own group's appeal rests on the belief they can return Hibs to the upper echelons of a changed Scottish game.

"Hibs are a good club and I think, now that we have a financially-level playing field in the Scottish game for the first time in a generation, it's a fantastic opportunity for a well-run football club to challenge for honours in Scotland and take on Celti. I think the field is open for a well-managed, well-financed club to do that and we see Hibs doing that.

"Everybody knows who the larger teams are. Rangers, Aberdeen, Hibs, Hearts, Dundee United - all of these clubs are capable, if they understand this new environment and they get the right people in the right positions, of challenging Celtic.

"Celtic are in a financial league or their own, I must say. They are 10 times bigger financially than more or less all the teams. But, unfortunately from a Celtic point of view, they will move down towards the average and the teams I've referred to will move up. So, it's going to be easier for a team such as Hibs to challenge for trophies if they are managed properly and accept this new environment."

If successful, Low's consortium intends to "involve fans in a meaningful manner" in both the ownership and the running of the club, with supporter representation on the board expected.

With the club's infrastructure having been built up impressively under Farmer and Petrie in recent years, giving the club a modern stadium and state-of-the-art training facility, Low indicated money would also be made available for "the playing side of things".

He has also reassured head coach Alan Stubbs and Dempster, who are both just weeks into their respective positions at the club, that the prospective new owners have no plans to make changes to their roles if they do succeed with their bid.

"When you take over any business a lot of people are tempted to throw the baby out with the bath water and have changes lock, stock and barrel," said Low.

"I take the opposite view, I think continuity is a good thing and everybody should be given an opportunity to do their job. There's no intention to replace anybody at this juncture. We'll go with the management structure that's in Hibernian just now."

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