The end of October came with a shocking news to Chelsea supporters all over the world. It was none other than Ron Gourlay’s, Chelsea’s then chief executive since 2009, decision to leave the club to pursue other business opportunities.
Though, a major boardroom shuffle was not expected; the announcement of Christian Purslow, an ex-Liverpool Managing Director, as head of Global commercial activities felt like a quick one. The manner in which all the events unfolded within a span of days gives us an insight that it was not at all a decision in haste. Instead, it was a well-planned succession. Chelsea confirmed that Gourlay’s non-commercial activities will be assumed by Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck and director Marina Granovskaia.
A statement on the CFC website read on Purslow’s appointment:
“The club has ambitious plans to build the Premier League’s most pioneering global commercial programme, partnering with innovative and market-leading organisations from around the world.”
This article takes an insight to his achievements during his tenure at Liverpool FC and what he can bring to our club.
Purslow graduated from Harvard Business School with an MBA degree. He trained as an analyst with LEK Consulting, before joining the Burton Group as executive assistant to the CEO. After becoming head of new business development for Reuters, he joined Credit Suisse First Boston as head of UK mergers and acquisitions.
He then joined Schroders Salomon Smith Barney as head of cable, media and entertainment investment, before becoming managing director of DB Capital Partners. It was while in this position, that DB Capital Partners was spun-out, in which he became managing director of new private equity firm, MidOcean Partners.
Purslow joined Liverpool in June 2009, as Managing Director succeeding Rick Parry, with the aim of bringing more revenue to the club. A Liverpool season ticket holder, he was brought into the club by their former co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillette, with the primary vision to settle the clubs’ £350 million debt amount. He assumed the overall management of the debt-stricken Liverpool FC with an assignment of finding new owners.
Within three months of his tenure, Purslow was able to strike a record shirt sponsorship deal with the Standard Chartered Bank worth £ 80m over a four-year period. The deal matched Manchester United’s then record deal with AON.
When asked whether Standard Chartered’s £20 million a year deal would stay on Merseyside or go to Dallas and Montreal to fund the club’s owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Purslow said:
“The fans will be relieved to know that Liverpool’s revenues, profits and income belong to the club. I can assure you that as we drive forward our turnover, we will invest a sensible amount of that in our wage bill and our transfers. None of that money will go anywhere other than into the development of the club.” – (Source: The Guardian)
He was quick in making a pointed remark towards the club’s old regime, whose shirt deal with Carlsberg was, at 17 years, the longest running in the Premier League but which, at £7.2m a year, was not the most lucrative.
It was evident Purslow meant business. His next strategy to improve revenue involved shifting of Liverpool’s stadium. But Liverpool’s Stanley Park project was mothballed by the credit crunch and, it couldn’t progress and they stayed on at Anfield.
However, his role changed when then owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks decided to sell and he helped the sale proceed for the new owners John W. Henry’s Fenway Sports Group before stepping down in October 2010.
He remained as a non-executive director and special adviser until February 2011. The then club statement from Liverpool FC revealed:
“The transaction values the club at £300m and eliminates all of the acquisition debt placed on LFC by its previous owners, reducing the club’s debt servicing obligations from £25m-£30m a year to £2m-£3m.” – (Source: BBC news)
Reflecting on his time as managing director, Purslow admitted to being proud of the achievements made in his spell at the club. He even admitted that Liverpool FC was just one day away from falling into administration before the deal went through.
Being a man who has the immense experience of leading a club like Liverpool through financial safety in their worse times, with Chelsea’s current financial stability, his new role at Chelsea seems a cake walk for him.
However, realizing what the future holds for us with strict FFP regulations coming into effect, it’s time Chelsea became cautious about balancing the revenue with the expenditure.
In the current situation, where Chelsea pursue a new stadium renovation for Stamford Bridge after the Battersea Power Station vision was shattered, This coupled with the shirt sponsorship with Samsung almost about to end, these are moments where we hope Purslow can put up his wealth of experience, given our successful financial reports this year, all with a £20 million profit, these are moments to rejoice for the club and in Purslow, we have the right man to re-imagine Chelsea’s global presence.
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Edited By: Ojas Tripathi