FORMER Inverness Caley Thistle chairman David Sutherland believes ordinary fans should get the chance to buy into the club after an anonymous donor gifted shares to the Highland Hospice.
A fifth of the club’s voting shares were donated by a generous benefactor, believed to be Inverness businessman Sandy Catto, to the hospice on Friday.
The charity is now hoping that a dedicated ICT fan may be interested in acquiring the 573,950 shares and helping push its £4.5 million appeal for a new inpatient unit in Inverness towards its target.
But Mr Sutherland, who holds a two per cent shareholding and is also part of the ICT Trust which owns 24 per cent of the shares, believes the donation should be divided up to allow as many supporters as possible to own a piece of the club.
"I think they should be made as widely available as possible to the real fan base and the supporters who turn up week after week," he said. "In an ideal world and if it was legally possible, the ordinary supporters would be given a chance to buy shares from the hospice at a price that was digestible and affordable to reward their support of Caley Thistle in the past and in the future."
The other members of the ICT Trust include Highland MSP David Stewart, former Inverness provost Allan Sellar, Paul MacInnes and Alan MacPhee.
Although hospice managers will only confirm the donation has come from "a supportive Highland family-owned business", there is speculation among fans that it is Mr Catto, of shipping and handling bulk and general cargoes company, Scotlog.
It is understood the family-owned company owns 14 per cent of the shares while Mr Catto personally owns five per cent. He could not be contacted for comment.
Highland News columnist Charles Bannerman has long followed the twists and turns in the club’s history.
"One thing is certain – these shares won’t be sold to anyone seeking a financial gain," he said. "Football shares never yield a profit and quite a large Caley Thistle holding once changed hands for a few pence in the pound."
The question of potential buyers has sparked a lively debate among fans on the CaleyThistleOnline forum.
One fan said selling to the highest bidder could leave the club in a position where its biggest shareholder could be someone "completely undesirable".
"It would be good if the donor of the shares applied conditions or a right of veto for their subsequent resale," the fan said.
Another wanted to see the shares sold in small blocks to fans of the club although the hospice has already said this is unlikely.
Andrew Leaver, the hospice’s head of fundraising, said yesterday that no serious offers had yet been received for the shares.
"A few people have been in contact wanting information but we don’t know how serious they are," he said. "On Twitter, someone had offered £1000 but we are looking for more than that."
The shares are among three million which were originally bought at £1 each.