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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 13:18 GMT
Who is Vladimir Romanov?
By Clive Lindsay

In 10 event-filled days since taking a majority shareholding, former Soviet nuclear submariner Vladimir Romanov has blown the team manager, the chief executive and the chairman out of the Tynecastle porthole.

But few should be surprised by the ruthlessness of the 57-year-old Russian-born businessman's October Revolution at Hearts.

His parents came through the horrors of the war against Nazi Germany, the brutality of the Stalinist regime, the poverty of the Cold War years and the frost that greeted Russians living in Lithuania.

That gave young Vladimir a thorough grounding in survival techniques.

His entrepreneurial prowess blossomed the moment he took over as head of the family at the tender age of 16 after the untimely death of his army officer father.

Vladimir Romanov shows his support for Hearts
Vladimir Romanov is determined to take Hearts to the top
Officially a taxi driver, the young Romanov sold Beatles, Elvis Presley and Rolling Stones bootlegs from the back of his car.

Even before Lithuania gained independence in 1991, he had ducked and dived around the Soviet state to sow the seeds of his business empire by buying in raw materials from Russia and turning them into goods back in his adopted homeland.

His wealth boomed as he took advantage of state enterprises being sold off to the highest bidder not only in Lithuania, but subsequently in other burgeoning nations like the Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Romanov teamed up with fellow members of Lithuania's nouveau riche to create the Ukio Bank and its investment offshoot.

And a paper fortune of almost 260m in banking, textiles and metals allowed him to make football his plaything.

TIMELINE OF TURMOIL
January 10: shareholders back Romanov's rescue plan
January 29: board approves Romanov takeover
February 2: Romanov buys 29.9% stake in club
March 3: Phil Anderton appointed chief executive
May 9: part company with head coach John Robertson
June 30: George Burley appointed new manager
October 21: Romanov becomes majority shareholder, increasing stake to 55.5%
October 22: Burley leaves due to "irreconcilable differences"
October 31: Anderton sacked and chairman George Foulkes resigns in protest
He is a founder member of FBK Kaunas, who faced Liverpool in Champions League qualifying this season, and remains a board member and sponsor.

He also took an interest in Belarussian club MTZ-Ripo Minsk before setting his sights on the Scottish Premier League.

Dundee United, Dundee and Dunfermline Athletic all rejected Romanov's advances before he turned his attention to Hearts.

He was welcomed with open arms by an Edinburgh club crippled by debt and internal turmoil as fans and enemies from within tussled with then chief executive Chris Robinson.

Romanov's financial legitimacy was thoroughly checked before the likes of Robinson and his rival Leslie Deans sold out to the new regime.

But, like his friend and fellow Russian Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, you don't survive the mafia and corruption-filled Eastern European markets without developing a mean business streak.

George Burley arrives at Tynecastle
George Burley was appointed and then ousted by Romanov
Romanov had been instrumental in the appointment of John Robertson as head coach.

But, within months, he had decided that Hearts' record goalscorer was not capable of creating a team that could end the Old Firm monopoly in Scotland.

George Burley was brought in and led the club to an unbeaten, 11-game run from the start of the season that resulted in them leading the SPL ahead of in-form Celtic and caused turmoil at champions Rangers.

The chief executive Phil Anderton, a former Scottish Rugby supremo, had presided over capacity crowds for the first time in years and was said to be on the brink of major sponsorship deals.

But both were dispensed with once they attempted to challenge Romanov's vision for the club.

His love of writing poetry - he even recited one as part of a television interview about Burley's departure - suggests that Romanov has a lighter side.

Hearts fans must hope that Tynecastle's Tsar continues to wax lyrical about his love for the club, while his accounts manage their 20m debt and a stadium that has, in the past, been earmarked for housing.




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