A Brief History Of Manchester United’s Ed Woodward


Edward Woodward was born in Essex in 1971.
Growing up in modest surroundings, he attended Brentwood School in his local area. In college,
he studied physics at the University of Bristol – graduating in 1993. Later, he qualified
as a chartered accountant. Woodward began working for PricewaterhouseCoopers
in 1993 as part of the accounting and tax advisory department. In 1999, he joined J.P
Morgan and Co as an investment banker in the mergers and aquisitions department. In 2005 while still with J.P Morgan, Woodward
played a significant role in brokering the takeover of Manchester United by Malcolm Glazer
and his family. The seeds of the Glazer takeover were sown in 2003, when a meeting was held
between the United board and members of the then titled Shareholders united. Discussions began to buy shares in a bid to
create a dam which would make a full takeover, either domestically or overseas, impossible.
Despite enthusiasm from some on the board, the deal never came to fruition, which essentially
left the club as a laying duck to any significant bids. Woodward, assigned by J.P Morgan to provide
the accounting work, won the affection of the Glazers by resurrecting the deal at the
eleventh hour. The Glazers would buy out the stake owned by Irish racing tycoons JP McManus
and John Magnier and gain 70% of the club. Soon after, Woodward was recruited by the
Glazers to join the club in a ‘financial planning’ role. In some newspaper profiles,
Woodward was described as the ‘seventh’ Glazer son. Two years later, he was put in charge of all
global commercial and media operations. Woodward thrived in this role, going after an aggressive
strategy he once described as “selling the diamonds”. Executives at Barcelona and Real
Madrid saw Woodward as a trailblazer for how he turned enthusiasm abroad into revenue.
In 2012, a survey revealed that United had 659 million supporters worldwide, and Woodward’s
success was managing to monetise that fanbase in a way never achieved by other clubs before. The financial results spoke for themselves
– United’s commercial revenue rose from £48.7 million in 2005 to £117.6 million
in 2012. This was largely due to renewed and improved deals with brands such as nike, Aon,
Aperol, Mister Potato, Aeroflot, Epson, Singha and DHL. The United jerseys sold in countries
like Malaysia and Thailand were counterfeit, so Woodward narrowed down supporters to regions
and sold commercial partnerships in each of them. Brands would now use the Manchester
United logo on their product and identify as ‘official partners’, something that
had never been done before. United would send players and former players to advertise the
brands. Michael Bolingbroke, who worked alongside
Woodward as the club’s chief operating officer for seven years explained the secret behind
his success. “He’s very measured, very considered, very
cogitate in decision making. When he makes the decision, he’s very confident it’s the
right decision and that gives him strength to see it through.” In this role, Woodward was also credited with
securing lucrative sponsorship deals with major companies worldwide such as Chevrolet
and adidas. That year, Woodward was appointed to the board of directors and named Manchester
United’s vice-chairman. In February 2013, it was announced that Woodward
would succeed the retiring CEO David Gill in the top operational role at the club. His
new, all-encompassing position would see him oversee both commercial and sporting responsibilities.
oversee both commercial and sporting responsibilities. In May 2013, Alex Ferguson retired as United
manager after 26 years in charge and a new chapter in the club’s history would begin. The summer transfer window of 2013 – Woodward’s
first at the helm in conjunction with new manager David Moyes – was widely regarded
as a disaster. United boldly pursued targets such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski
and Cesc Fabregas, but ended deadline day by botching Ander Herrera’s transfer from
Athletic Bilbao and with only Marouane Fellaini to show for their efforts. Less than eight months later, Moyes departed
after leading United to their worst league campaign in nearly two decades. Woodward took much of the heat for the failure
and was the subject of much derision from supporters. Many demanded he resign and it
drew greater scrutiny towards him after years of success behind the scenes. Alongside Tottenham’s Daniel Levy, Woodward
had become known as perhaps English football’s highest profile administrator. One thing is for sure is that he was the best
paid administrator, earning a cool £2.521million in his first year – more than Arsenal’s
Ivan Gazidiz and Manchester City’s Ferran Soriano. In the years since, Woodward has continued
to deliver huge commercial deals for Manchester United as well as working on transfers. In
2016, Woodward hired Jose Mourinho as manager. During the same summer, United broke the world
record transfer fee for Paul Pogba. They have since also spent vast sums on Romelu Lukaku
and Alexis Sanchez, flexing their financial muscle. The latter move was wildly greeted
on social media, fan perception perhaps changing towards Woodward. Five years after their last title though,
they are still without a league despite the riches spent. Woodward has undoubtedly overseen
a prosperous time financially at Old Trafford, but Manchester United are renowned for the
trophies they’ve won and the football they play, so that’s the next great test for
the former chartered accountant. It remains to be seen if he is up to the task.

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