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Vladimir Nikolayevich Romanov (Russian: Влади́мир Никола́евич Рома́нов; IPA: [vlɐˈdʲimʲɪr nʲɪkɐˈlaɪvʲɪtɕ rɐˈmanəf], Lithuanian: Vladimiras Romanovas; born 1947 in Tver Oblast, Russian SFSR, USSR) is an ethnic Russian businessman who also holds Lithuanian citizenship following that country's independence from the Soviet Union.
He is chairman of UBIG Investments, which owned a majority of the shares in failed Lithuanian bank Ūkio Bankas. Cash flow from the bank enabled him to stake significant stakes in various sporting clubs, becoming the majority shareholder in both Scottish Premier League football club Hearts and Lithuanian Basketball League club Žalgiris, and taking control of the Lithuanian club FBK Kaunas. The group previously was owner of Belarusian Premier League club FC Partizan Minsk, before it was sold in March 2012.
Romanov spent his early childhood in Tver Oblast, before moving with his family to Lithuania at the age of nine. His father had served in the Red Army and fought in the Battle of Berlin, but died when Romanov was just 16. This meant that Romanov was forced to support the rest of the family, which he did by driving a taxi and selling Western popular music, including bootleg copies of records by The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones.
He then served in the Soviet Navy for six years, including time aboard the K19 submarine. Romanov later bought the submarine, and invited his fellow crew members to the 2006 Scottish Cup Final.
Even before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Romanov had started to make money during the late 1980s through manufacturing. His wealth greatly increased during the early 1990s after state enterprises were sold off to the highest bidder. Romanov was amongst those who founded Ūkio bankas, which was the first private bank to be founded in Lithuania. Through his private investment group UBIG,
Romanov has business interests including aluminium, textiles, property and television. These activities are carried out in Lithuania, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Russia and Serbia. His wealth has been variously estimated at £260M, £300M, and £200M in the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List.
UKIO Bankas was closed by the Lithuania Central Bank on 12 February 2013 and its 'good' assets transferred to Šiaulių bankas. Investigations continue into allegations of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering according to the Bank of Lithuania. Romanov has declared himself insolvent.
Hearts, like many other Scottish Premier League clubs, ran into severe financial difficulties during the early part of the 2000s. An assessment by PWC in the autumn of 2003 found that Hearts, along with four other SPL clubs, was technically insolvent. Dundee and Livingston subsequently went into administration, while Hibs and Dunfermline both took drastic measures to balance their finances, cutting their player budgets severely and selling assets. Vladimir Romanov had shown interest in investing in Scottish football for some time because he wanted to see whether Lithuanian footballers could prosper abroad. Scottish football clubs were particularly ripe for takeover due to their weak finances and corporate structures. He made approaches to Dundee United, Dundee and Dunfermline, but these were all rejected. He opened negotiations with the board of directors to invest in Hearts during August 2004. Romanov offered the prospect of the club staying at a redeveloped Tynecastle, which was very attractive to Hearts supporters. Board chairman George Foulkes pleaded that the shareholders should not scare Romanov away by demanding too much for their shares.
Chief executive Chris Robinson, who had been the chief proponent of the necessity of selling Tynecastle, agreed at the end of September 2004 to sell his 19.6% stake to Romanov. The sale of Robinson's shares was completed on 2 February 2005 after Romanov made financial guarantees that the club could continue to trade without selling Tynecastle. This sale increased Romanov's stake to 29.9%, giving him effective control of the club. Romanov's takeover was welcomed by a fans representative. Romanov eventually increased his majority share in Hearts to 82%.
Hearts got off to a tremendous start in the 2005–06 season. The team won their first eight league matches under the leadership of George Burley, equalling a club record set in 1914. Despite the great start to the season, Burley was controversially sacked, leading the club to a political, social, and national decline that was only addressed by the removal of Romanov from the club. Romanov was noted for causing controversies in Scottish football, such as forcing out Steven Pressley.
Romanov was the owner of the Lithuanian Premier League basketball club and Euroleague participant BC Žalgiris since May 2009. He made numerous controversial decisions including sacking head coaches one by one, most famously firing head coach Darius Maskoliūnas in the middle of LKL finals series, players had to draw their own tactic schemes and making substitutions, which resulted in losses to the rivals Lietuvos Rytas in decisive games. Before 2010–11 season started, Zalgiris have purchased several high profile players and a new head coach. In the first half of the season Zalgiris was consistent, which led to impressive victories in all tournaments. After a positive start that hadn't been seen for years, Vladimir Romanov once again shocked the entire country by firing head coach Aco Petrovic, which resulted in a series of losses and Mirza Begić's decision to leave the team. During the 2011–12 season, Romanov fired two other Žalgiris coaches – head coach Elias Zouros and his assistant coach. Romanov resigned from Zalgiris on 28 February 2013, two weeks after the collapse of Ūkio Bankas. Before leaving, Romanov sold his shares to the team veterans.
On 12 March 2009, Romanov announced that he intended to stand for election to become President of Lithuania. The Lithuanian electoral commission then advised Romanov that he is ineligible for that office because he was born in Russia.
In 2007 Romanov won a Lithuanian version of Dancing with the Stars, which is the equivalent of the British show Strictly Come Dancing. He was paired with professional dance partner Sandra Kniazevičiūtė. Romanov gave the prize money he won from winning the contest to Kniazevičiūtė. Due to the purported lack of artistry in his dance moves and alleged forgery of voting results, Romanov was called Buratino (Lithuanian: Buratinas) by the show host Arūnas Valinskas, a nickname he is now being referred to by his critics in Lithuania.
- Romanov: lord of the dance, Scotland on Sunday, 23 December 2007
- V.Romanov stepped in to save legendary basketball club Zalgiris. Ubig.lt. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
- Vladimir Romanov saves Zalgiris. talkbasket.net. 06/05/09
- Who is Vladimir Romanov?, BBC Sport, 1 November 2005
- Romanov attacks Hearts coverage, BBC Sport, 22 September 2006
- Haggerty, Anthony. Jambos Chief Vlad Splashes Out On Sub, Daily Record, 20 July 2006.
- Stewart, Will. Romanov invites Soviet sub heroes to cup final, The Scotsman, May 2006
- Penman, John. Scottish Agenda: John Penman: Romanov's ultimate goal eludes Hearts fans, The Times, 23 October 2005
- How big player took on the Russian mafia and a KGB agent, The Scotsman, 7 March 2005
- Murray, Ewan. Romanov moves into the broadcasting business back home but denies Playboy link, The Scotsman, 9 March 2008
- Hannan, Martin and Brennan, Dan. Romanov bares his soul to convince Hearts, The Scotsman, 6 February 2005
- Vladimir Romanov, The Sunday Times, 27 April 2008
- SPL posts record losses, BBC News, 23 September 2003
- Dundee 'a one-off sideshow', BBC Sport, 21 November 2003
- Livi in administration, BBC Sport, 3 February 2004
- Williamson to accept pay cut, BBC Sport, 27 October 2003
- Grahame, Ewing. Dunfermline players stall over pay cut, The Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2004
- Hibernian Comment on Land Sale, Hibernian F.C. official site.
- Hearts in takeover talks, BBC Sport, 31 August 2004
- Conn, David. The problem at Hearts is the trouble with British football, The Guardian, 9 November 2005
- Campbell, Alan. Romanov confirms he aims to stay at Tynecastle, Sunday Herald, 3 October 2004
- Consortium aims to gazump Romanov, BBC Sport, 26 January 2005
- Foulkes' plea for Hearts, BBC Sport, 22 September 2004
- Robinson sells Hearts stake, BBC Sport, 30 September 2004
- Romanov takes control at Hearts, BBC Sport, 2 February 2005
- Hearts give takeover green light, BBC Sport, 29 January 2005
- Romanov's extra ownership could cost him millions, euFootball.biz, 28 December 2006
- Happy Burley avoids talk of title, BBC Sport, 24 September 2005
- Romanov denies Old Firm corruption, www.news.com.au, 16 February 2007
- Old Firm 'buy off' refs – Romanov, Metro, 15 February 2007
- Former Scotland defender Steven Pressley poised to retire from playing
- Zalgiris Kaunas fires coach Elias Zouros | Lithuania | Europe. Sportando. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
- Romanov presidency hopes dashed, BBC Sport, 13 March 2009.
- Vlad gives £30k dance prize to partner, Edinburgh Evening News, 24 December 2007