Ipswich Town are back in the Premier League following a 22-year absence. In part two of this interview, Stuart Watson spoke to majority shareholder Ed Schwartz about his relationship with chief executive Mark Ashton and manager Kieran McKenna.


There have been many tales of ego-driven owners fancying a go at a real life game of Football Manager over the years.

Big investors wouldn't micro manage in any of their other businesses, but the emotion of sport often sees them trying to dictate transfers and team selections. It rarely ends well.

Hold your heads of key departments to account, yes, but ultimately trust in the expertise you hired them to deliver on. That faith, unsurprisingly, is rock solid at Ipswich Town given what's happened over the last two years.

Majority shareholder Ed Schwartz, reflecting on a rapid rise to the Premier League, looks back on a conversation he had with chief executive Mark Ashton last summer as a moment when his belief in those guiding the ship was fortified.

Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton.Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton. (Image: PA)

"We were at dinner in London, making plans for the future and I looked Mark in the eye and said ‘Mark, can we really get promoted to the Premier League? We’ve only just got promoted to the Championship’," explains the American, who is ultimately in charge of the funding that come from a sizeable US pension pot underpinning the Blues.

"He looked me square in the eye and said ‘it’s not a matter of "if", it’s just a matter of "when"', and that level of conviction certainly gave me the confidence to bring the level of investment to the table so we could achieve what we wanted to - and did -  achieve."

With Schwartz based over the pond in Cleveland, Ashton is the boots on the ground, daily driving force behind Ipswich Town. On their relationship, Schwartz explains: “There are days where we speak three or four times and there are times where I’ll go a few days without speaking to him. 

SIGN-UP! Get four months of ALL our Town content for just £4 - or 40% off a whole year! 

“Working with Mark Ashton has been literally the most satisfying experience I’ve had in business in my life. Mark is an incredible professional. I often say that he is skilled enough to run any business that I’ve ever been associated with or involved in because the business of running a football club is incredibly complicated.

"Mark is an incredibly kind and generous person, he’s also very tough when he needs to be. He communicates well and is incredibly transparent, like he is with the media and the fanbase. He’s very honourable and he has very consistent values, the same values that we think are important.

"So I couldn't think of a better person to work with. Mark’s become a friend, a very close friend, and I think he’s an incredible steward of this club that we have. All the ownership has incredible confidence in Mark's values and his expertise to fulfil everyone’s dreams."

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna recently signed a new four-year contract at Portman Road to end speculation over his future.Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna recently signed a new four-year contract at Portman Road to end speculation over his future. (Image: PA Images)

Schwartz recently jetted over to the UK to hold emergency talks after Premier League clubs Manchester United, Chelsea and Brighton all expressed interest in luring hot prospect manager Kieran McKenna away from Portman Road. McKenna ultimately signed a new four-year deal in Suffolk.

Is it fair to say that, within reason, what the 38-year-old asks for, he'll get this summer when it comes to strengthening his squad in the transfer window?

“There have been incidences at the end of certain transfer windows where I've said ‘okay, I know we’ve got these four players, but is there a reason why we should stretch the budget and maybe get one more?’" explains Schwartz.

Ipswich Town's owners funded an expensive loan deal for striker Kieffer Moore on January deadline day.Ipswich Town's owners funded an expensive loan deal for striker Kieffer Moore on January deadline day. (Image: Ross Halls)

"It’s interesting, because that usually this happens the other way around - the CEO and manager are usually the ones that say ‘we need someone else’ to the owners - but every time they have said to me, ‘we don’t want to upset the culture, let’s run with this’, and that’s obviously worked out great.

"So yes, I do have an incredible amount of confidence in both Mark and Kieran. They treat the money like it’s their own. It’s really been a great working relationship. 

“Not every decision works out, but overall they have made a lot of good ones. It’s certainly hard to argue with success.

"Now the goal is to continue along the same plan and continue to have long-term sustainable success. Be sensible, be smart. I know the management team will be bold and brave and they certainly have the ownership’s support in doing that."