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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 August, 2004, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Hearts in takeover talks
Chief executive Chris Robinson and chairman George Foulkes
Chris Robinson (left) is strongly in favour of selling Tynecastle
Takeover talks between Hearts and a Lithuanian businessman are at an advanced stage, BBC Sport believes.

And it could lead to the Scottish Premier League club shelving plans to sell Tynecastle Stadium to clear debts.

Vladimir Romanov is close to an agreement with chief executive Chris Robinson and former chairman Leslie Deans over their 20% shareholdings.

But Romanov will only proceed if he gains a controlling stake and is also in discussions with media group SMG.

SMG also has a 20% shareholding in the club, which has already reached a provisional agreement to sell Tynecastle and therefore wipe out its 18m debt.

It is understood that major creditor Halifax Bank of Scotland, which had told the club that it would not lend more money to the club unless it agreed to sell the stadium, is comfortable with a sale of shares to the Lithuanian.

Negotiations have been going on for several months, but any deal could yet be weeks away.

Hearts sources insist that they would not have entered such negotiations if Romanov's financial credentials had not been checked "at the highest possible level".

It is also being stressed that head coach Craig Levein's job would be safe as he is seen as an asset by the proposed new owner, who would bring in his own general manager in the shape of experienced coach Anatoly Byshovets.

Romanov, who recently sold a substantial stake in Lithuanian bank Ukio, had previously held talks with Dundee, Dundee United and Dunfermline Athletic without a deal being finalised.

His group already owns Lithuanian club FBK Kaunas and he had touted the idea of using Scottish football as a way of exporting footballing talent from his homeland.

It is not known whether a similar arrangement is part of his plans for Hearts, but it is believed that he favours the club remaining at Tynecastle.

Rebuilding the main stand as part of a regeneration of the area around the ground appear to be part of Romanov's plans.

Robinson has strongly advocated the sale of Tynecastle as the only viable way forward, leading to protests from a large section of supporters.

The stadium no longer meets pitch size requirements for European football and Hearts have been forced to play this season's Uefa Cup ties at nearby Murrayfield Stadium.

There are problems with redeveloping the stadium to comply with council plans to regenerate the area.

Hearts can withdraw from their agreement to sell Tynecastle to the Cala Management housing group before January should a viable alternative be found to remain at their present home.

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