THE date was May 25, 1981, and a significant one for Wallace Mercer. After 12 days of hard talking, he threw his National Westminster Bank cheque for [GBP]265,000 on to the negotiating table and bought himself a controlling interest in Edinburgh's Heart of Midlothian Football Club.

The 34-year-old property developer had bought more than a football club, however. The deal allowed him to pass through the stage-door of Scottish life and throughout the eighties and into the nineties it was a platform on which he performed with relish and gusto. He was described as a child of the eighties, and used the booming property market of that decade to make himself a millionaire.

At school in Glasgow he had sharpened his gambler's instinct playing three-card brag. Later, as property market values reached for the stratosphere, Mercer put these unusual childhood skills to lucrative use by becoming one of the high-rollers playing formajor stakes. He once referred to himself as a controlled egomaniac.

It was an off-the-cuff remark that he may have later regretted. Whenever it was cast up in the press interviews that he gave, he would recant by saying that finance houses were not in the habit of bankrolling those of a vainglorious disposition.

Nevertheless, throughout the eighties, and especially as he showed his political colours and allied himself to the Conservative Party cause, Mercer was invariably to be found centre-stage. Mercer never made any attempt to mask his high profile. On the contrary, he revelled in publicity. The registration plate XX1 adorned his Jaguar limousine while its counterpart on his wife's VW is XX2.

In 1981when he was negotiating to buy Hearts and, to his chagrin, he was asked by the Hearts board to show the colour of his money (hence the NatWest cheque), he valued his gross assets at some [GBP]2.5m.

Mercer's father had died when he was 12 and when the young Mercer left school, he worked by day as a management trainee and at night he studied economics, accountancy and law.

At 25 he moved to London, where he managed a property firm with an annual turnover of [GBP]15m. Mercer then returned to Scotland to work as assistant property manager in the development division of an Edinburgh-based construction company. He put half the sale-price of his London home into his own property development operation. Pentland Securities and its numerous offshoots became the personal vehicle which he and his wife, Anne, drove to financial success and which enabled him to make his entrance on to the national stage via Tynecastle park.

Mercer and his money were good for Hearts. According to his Heart to Heart account of the Tynecastle story published in 1988, his first piece of business was to relieve the departing manager, Bobby Moncur, of [GBP]13,000 as the price of releasing him from his contract. The firm smack of financial management had arrived in Gorgie.

However, in the summer of 1990, his gambling instincts deserted him and he got one badly wrong. He attempted a takeover of city rivals Hibernian and, after a bitter war of words and even death threats to him and his family, he retired from the fray. He later admitted he had misjudged the situation and that he had been shocked by the tribalism his action precipitated.

Mercer's flair for property deals was recognised by the Life Association of Scotland, and the Dunedin Property Group was created as a vehicle which would give full rein to his talents and act as the LAS property investment arm.

He is survived by his wife, Anne, and his children, Iain and Helen, and two grandchildren.

Wallace Mercer, businessman; born 1946, died January 17, 2006.