New Town director 'local boy made good'
NEW Ipswich Town director Kevin Beeston has insisted: "I am no Roman Abramovich – I am just the local boy made good."But while the latest addition to the Portman Road board cannot bring a multi-million pound cash boost to the club, like with Chelsea's new Russian owner, he pledged to do his utmost to help the Blues claw their way back to the Premiership.
By Jonathan Barnes
NEW Ipswich Town director Kevin Beeston has insisted: "I am no Roman Abramovich – I am just the local boy made good."
But while the latest addition to the Portman Road board cannot bring a multi-million pound cash boost to the club, like with Chelsea's new Russian owner, he pledged to do his utmost to help the Blues claw their way back to the Premiership.
Mr Beeston, 40, the executive chairman of Serco Group plc, took up his unpaid post yesterday and spoke of his enthusiasm for the future of the Division One club.
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The lifelong Ipswich supporter, who is at the head of one of the world's top public service companies, started his working life selling wet fish on Lowestoft market for Birds Eye.
He is now hoping the business skills that took him to the top can aid Town's recovery from relegation and administration to return to English football's top flight.
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"I believe in this club and I hope to be able to play a part in taking them back to where they belong," he said.
"Aside from my family and my business, football is my principal interest in life. I have been a season ticket holder at Ipswich, even though I haven't been able to get to as many games as I would like."
Mr Beeston was invited on to the board after attending several games as a guest last season and, even in the dark days of administration, he didn't hesitate in accepting.
"David Sheepshanks asked me if I would be interested in becoming a director, and I was delighted to be asked and to accept," he said.
He said it "remained to be seen" about the level of investment he could offer. "I'm no Mr Abramovich, let's make that clear. I'm keen to support the share issue as well as other directors, but it won't be in a major capacity like at Chelsea."
Mr Beeston's appointment comes as Lord Ryder is preparing to quit the Town board after four years and chairman David Sheepshanks said there would be further additions in the coming months.
The new director said the board had encountered a "phenomenally difficult situation" after relegation from the Premiership, exaggerated by the collapse of ITV Digital and the transfer market crash.
"I have never come across anything in business where there has been such huge change. The club tried to respond to that by selling players who wouldn't leave," he said.
"The board, who are largely unpaid, remember, had to fight hard to get out of voluntary administration and put together a good plan.
"The worst is over, but there are tough times ahead. We need to balance the books, survive and build on that. The club's position is tight, but there is a solid foundation for growth.
"I hope I can bring my business experience to give advice and support in terms of key decisions – to make better decisions and have better ideas against a backdrop of a board already doing a good job.
"I've got a bit of experience in business. My firm employed 3,000 when I first joined to 34,000 now. I have been quite successful and that has involved tough decisions.
"I'm a qualified accountant, too, so I won't have too much trouble understanding the figures."
The new board member urged supporters to back the club's forthcoming share issue. "It would give us the flexibility to do things like bringing extra players into the team," he added.
Mr Beeston was born in The Garland pub, in Rushmere St Andrew, which his parents ran in the 1960s, and lived in Kesgrave before his family moved to Gorleston, Norfolk.
"I was surrounded by Norwich fans, which was great – we were doing well and they were not terribly successful," he said.
"I went to my first game in the 1973/74 season and I was hooked after seeing us beat Real Madrid 1-0. My favourite player was Kevin Beattie – he was an absolute legend."
He spent five years with Unilever – "good experience in a factory environment" – before training as an accountant.
He joined Serco, which provides services for clients including national governments, in 1983 and held the positions of finance director and chief executive before being appointed as executive chairman in May 2002.
The company, a world leader in outsourcing management tasks, has an annual turnover of £1.3 billion.
Mr Beeston, who lives close to the Surrey/Middlesex border, is married to Jayne and has three children, Oliver, 11, Lloyd, nine, and Kathryn, seven.