Hearts have officially become the biggest fan-owned club in British football.
Ann Budge, the Edinburgh club’s CEO and chairwoman, formally transferred her majority shareholding over to the Foundation of Hearts fans group on Monday afternoon.
The group, founded by five local business people in 2010, are now majority shareholders at Tynecastle.
The club tweeted on Monday that it was a “momentous date”, billing the handover as “Heart and Soul Day”.
Budge confirmed she has no plans to leave her role as Hearts chairwoman anytime soon as she expressed delight and satisfaction at completing the historic transfer of ownership to the supporters.
Budge took control of Hearts when she helped rescue them from administration in 2014 and although she is no longer the owner, she intends to remain at the helm for at least another two years.
She said: “I have committed to stay for a minimum of two years. If I’m still able to contribute and if the fans want me then it could be longer.
“I’ll certainly still be here for the next two years. I’m enjoying it enormously. To say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it would clearly not be true but I’ve enjoyed the majority of it.
“I love the staff and the supporters, even when I get criticised. It’s been fantastic. We’re now going into the next phase and I just want us to keep moving forward and getting stronger.”
Budge believes her seven years as owner have been largely progressive. With Hearts sitting joint-top of the cinch Premiership while playing in a stadium modernised during her reign, she is delighted to have handed over ownership to supporters at a time when the club is in “great shape”.
She said: “It feels terrific (to no longer be the owner) because it means we’ve achieved everything we set out to achieve despite the doubts that were expressed about whether it could be done.
“I’m very confident about the club going forward. We’ve had a few difficulties to deal with over the last seven years and we’ve come through it.
“The supporters have backed us every step of the way and we’re in great shape. It’s a perfect time for this transition to happen.
“The club is in a good place, financially stable with a great management team and a great board. It’s all good.
“I don’t know what my legacy as owner will be but I hope it will be very positive, unlike some of the previous chairmen and owners in the past.
“I think when people look around and see what we’ve achieved, they’ll see that we’re better than where we were when I took over. That was my objective and I take a great deal of pride from that.”
Budge reiterated that the change of ownership will not automatically lead to supporters having autonomy on key decisions.
She said: “On a day-to-day basis, as we’ve said all the way through this, the club continues to be run by the executive team and the board continues to set the strategy.”
“There are four issues the fans will always have a say on: we can’t sell the shares, we can’t move from Tynecastle, we can’t change the club colours, we can’t change the name without permission of the supporters.
“The whole idea is to protect the club from things going badly wrong in the future.”