Last Thursday, Aston Villa released a statement that detailed the announcement of our new Chief Executive, Christian Purslow.
The British-born businessman has agreed to occupy Villa Park’s chief executive’s office, a room that has been vacant ever since Keith Wyness’ controversial departure four months ago.
Purslow, who does have connections to Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, held the managing director’s role at Liverpool between 2009 and 2010, four years before his three-season tenure in the same role at Chelsea FC. Outside of football however, he has worked for companies such as Reuters, Burton, the Deutsche Bank Company and MidOcean Partners. Quite the track record, it must be said.
A product of the esteemed Harvard Business School, Christian finished in the top 5% of his class. After earning an MBA as a Baker Scholar, he entered the world of business as a trainee analyst at London-based firm, L.E.K Consulting. Now aged 54, his role at Villa will be his first as a chief executive of a football club, though it seems he has been brought in to exercise a very familiar talent of his – his business expertise.
Whilst in operation at Liverpool, he orchestrated a four-year shirt-sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered, worth £80M. When he was at Chelsea, he negotiated deals with Yokohama, Wipro and Carabao, as well as their current shirt-sponsorship contract with Nike, which was rumoured to be worth over £900M.
His appointment therefore, would appear to spell trouble for two people in particular. The first is Luke Roper, who despite having created a widely-praised trio of kits for this season, was only given the privilege to do so due to the club having to operate on a shoestring budget during our financial crisis. Now that we have far wealthier owners, one of whom is a board member at Adidas, it seems reasonable to expect a more lucrative deal for the coming seasons. 32Red’s tenure across the midriff of our kits will probably also become collateral damage too, seeing as that was arranged during a period where the club was in no position to turn down any kind of revenue, so probably involved very small figures indeed.
The second is our manager, Steve Bruce. Now this may come as music to the ears of many of you, but Bruce isn’t in danger because Purslow is a ruthless, objective CEO with half-an-eye on match performances – he is in danger because Purslow, especially when at Liverpool, had a knack for showing a little too much control over the manager – who at the time, was Rafa Benitez. Benitez, whose departure was apparently brought about by “mutual consent”, seemed far too invested in Liverpool at the time for that to have been the case. The postmortem revealed something in support of this – that Benitez had issues with the new ownership from the get-go, and once they became dissatisfied with the club’s performances in the league, they completely changed the direction of the club, essentially ushering him out the door. Rafa, in an interview he conducted once he was appointed manager of Internzaionale, made the shock and the sadness the exit caused him very clear. He claimed “people in the club changed and the approach to everything was different” and that from then on, his exit was inevitable. And who was the one man that Benitez claimed was at the heart this scheme?
Yep. You guessed it, it was the man next to Kenny Dalglish – Christian Purslow.
We’ve all seen how internal influences on his decision making angers Bruce, just look at the clear frustration he showed to reporters when he was questioned about the role of super-agent Jorge Mendes on this summer’s transfer business. This is why I believe that adding Purslow to the Villa equation could well spell an early exit for Steve – he has shown, not just tactically, that he is blinded by his desire to stay rooted in his outdated values – and when Christian Purslow arrived on the scene, a man who embodies everything that modern football stands for (namely business and economics), it added a very weighty piece of straw onto Bruce’s withering back. He is not the revenue-attracting, glamorous manager that the owners desire, nor is he the title-winning, intelligent manager that the fans desire. The longer the poor performances continue, the wider the exit door creeps open – and it is Christian Purslow’s hand on the doorknob.
Many sections of our fan base, as well as those from both Liverpool and Chelsea, were sceptical about Purslow’s addition to the Villa Park set up – as they should be. We here at Villa Park have had far too many poor additions to our elite table over the last decade. And though our new owners have done little to truly prove themselves as an anomaly, bar ignoring Financial Fair Play and continuing to bring in new signings during the transfer window, they do seem to be far more transparent than their predecessors. There aren’t the skeletons in the closet that Xia had, nor is there the distance that came with Lerner. Purslow’s appointment has clear reasoning and equally visible direction.
Now let’s see where it takes us.
As always, feel free to share your opinions beneath this article, or by reaching out to me on Twitter, at @_DJMW.