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Not a great investment

2007 May 22
by Skip Sauer

I’m speaking of Wolverhampton Wanderers, a football club that was in the old first division when I first set foot in England in 1973. I’ve kept track of them off and on ever since. A good friend – a former Clemson soccer player and Econ alumnus – comes from Wolverhampton, which makes their recent lack of success somehow more rueful for me. But back to the point – the investment. Here’s the condensed story of Sir Jack Hayward, former owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Hayward, 83, who used to crawl under the turnstiles at Molineux to watch the team as a boy, bought the club 17 years ago for £2.1 m from Gallagher Estates, and spent around £50m in the first 10 years in unsuccessful attempts to take Wolves back to the old First Division, and latterly the Premiership.

Four years ago he retired as chairman, handing over to elder son Rick, and taking the title of life president, which he will retain. He promised he would stand aside if the right person came along, and a number of potential suitors showed interest, including Milan Mandaric, before he took over at Leicester, and a consortium led by Graeme Souness. All were rejected until yesterday’s news from Wolves that Hayward had taken the “unprecedented step of ‘gifting’ the shares” to Carden Leisure Ltd, who are controlled by Morgan.

I haven’t seen the books of Wolves, but an English soccer club, particularly when operated by a benefactor such as Sir Jack, is a break even business at best. And so, after (at least) £52m of investment since 1984, Sir Jack is turning the club over to a fellow named Morgan, from Liverpool. For £10. Football can be a cruel game.

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