Mark Detmer on Pele, 'family spirit' and choosing football over a Ferrari

Ipswich Town co-owner Mark Detmer has explained why he ended up buying a football club rather than a Ferrari. Photo: Archant

Ipswich Town co-owner Mark Detmer has explained why he ended up buying a football club rather than a Ferrari. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

Real estate guru Mark Detmer became the third of Ipswich Town's new American-based co-owners to speak to the EADT and Ipswich Star last week. STUART WATSON discovered a family man with a deep-rooted love of football.

Mark Detmer appears on our Zoom call bang on the time agreed.

His children have just been dropped off at school and, fuelled by coffee that's being drunk from his new Ipswich Town mug, he's ready to start a busy morning of interviews from his Los Angeles home.

Within minutes he's encouraging his wife, who is offering silent support off camera, to show her face.

"I'll go and put my Town shirt on," she says excitedly from the background.

It sparks a tale of how Mark - a globally renowned real estate broker - first moved into football club ownership.

Mark Detmer, one of four Americans involved in Ipswich Town's takeover. Photo:  Mike Mertes, AZ Big Media

Mark Detmer, one of Ipswich Town's new American co-owners. Photo: Mike Mertes, AZ Big Media - Credit: Mike Mertes, AZ Big Media

“Brett (Johnson) invited my family and I down to an Arizona United match against OC (Orange County) Blues," he explains.

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"It was us, Brett, his two oldest children, John and Monica, two fans of Arizona, and the bus driver. 

“So we’re sitting there in the sun baking. My wife has no idea why we spent a Saturday driving down to Irvine (a city in southern California, a near seven hour journey away from Phoenix) to watch this match that maybe had 80 local fans and two visiting fans. 

“As we sat there she said ‘what are we doing here?’ and I said ‘honey, we’re interested in investing in this club, I think we can do something with it’. 

“She says ‘you do realise there’s no-one here, right?’ and I said ‘I do, but that’s the opportunity!’

“She paused, she looked out on the field, looked back at me and she said ‘alright, if you’re having a mid-life crisis go get a Ferrari’."

EMBARGOED TO 0001 TUESDAY OCTOBER 2EDITORIAL USE ONLYA Ferrari 488 Spyder lines up outside Argos

Mark Detmer jokes that buying a Ferrari instead of a football club would have been more suitable for a mid-life crisis. Photo: PA

Detmer didn't want a Ferrari though. He wanted a football club.

But why? We've heard how Johnson fell in love with football when living in London during the early 00s. And we'd heard how Berke Bakay grew up in Turkey as a passionate Galatasaray fan. So where did Detmer's love affair with the beautiful game begin?

“For me it started when I was very little," he explains.

“It was the late 70s and I was one of those kids who chose to play soccer over baseball or other sports. It just became a passion of mine. 

“At that time we lived in Portland, Oregon, so I liked the Timbers. I went to their games with my father and that was a big part of my childhood. 

“My father also took me to watch Pele playing for the (New York) Cosmos back in the day. I followed the US men’s and women’s national teams too.

“Back then Man U had so much of a following here in the US, so I kind of followed them as well because they were always on TV."

Pele during the announcement of the Official New York Cosmos Opus book - which weighs 37 kilos and c

Legendary Brazilian striker Pele finished his career playing in the United States for New York Cosmos between 1975 and 1977. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

He continues: "As a player I liked contact - I was a physical player.

"I usually played left-back or holding mid. It’s not that I didn’t like scoring goals, I just loved defence. I loved taking people out if I needed to with heavy challenges and tackles, because that’s just how I'm built. 

“I didn't probably possess enough of the finesse, but I could play the long ball and I had foot speed for that left-back position. 

“Typically that right-forward was the fast kid so I always had to match up against that and I enjoyed that challenge. 

“If they didn’t get any goals or any crosses in the box that gave me great pride. That meant I’d won."

George Best, Manchester United

Mark Detmer followed Manchester United from afar, including star man George Best, when growing in the 1970s. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

Asked if he ever felt like an outsider playing soccer growing up, instead of more traditional US sports like American football, basketball and baseball, Detmer pauses before replying.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like that, because it’s not my personality," he says.

“We moved around a bunch as a child, from northern California, to Oregon, then Phoenix, Arizona and now Los Angeles.

“I’ve always moved around and been able to connect with people. I think that’s just my personality."

Johnson, who lives just a few doors down, has spoken of Detmer being 'the most connected guy I know', while Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz has painted a picture of Detmer being able to communicate with people from all walks of life and instantly put them at ease.

Indeed, it was Detmer who proved the initial glue between Johnson and Bakay, the latter refusing to take Johnson's calls after he'd been beaten to the purchase of Arizona United.

Detmer, who had met Johnson through 'a very fortuitous breakfast meeting', gently encouraged his friend Bakay, whose children went to the same school, to consider joining an extended ownership group.

And that's when things really took off.

Ipswich Town's new co-owners Mark Detmer, Berke Bakay and Brett Johnson. Photo: Contributed

Ipswich Town's new co-owners Mark Detmer, Berke Bakay and Brett Johnson. Photo: Contributed - Credit: Contributed

Johnson rebranded Arizona United as Phoenix Rising, Bakay persuaded Didier Drogba to sign, while Detmer was the driving force behind a new stadium being built. 

“Everybody has got a gift and maybe mine is being the middle man!" laughs Detmer.

“I’d known Berke for a long time, then I met Brett and was very enamoured with his skillset. 

“Brett is a hugely charismatic guy. You’ve noticed that already. He’s very thoughtful and very well-spoken, as is Berke.

“Our wives met, our daughters met, our sons became friends. It was just so natural for all of us. 

“We all went to Turkey and had lunches and dinners with Berke’s mum every day.

“There’s a whole family spirit to the three of us that I think is integral.

“That's absolutely important, because you only get one spin around, right? This is not a dress rehearsal. This is the show. 

Ipswich Town's new co-owners Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer. Photo: Contributed

Ipswich Town's new co-owners Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer. - Credit: Contributed

“To have an opportunity to create these shared memories with the ones you love, I can’t think of any better way to spend your time. 

“It’s a big part of what drew us to Ipswich as a club. We spent three years looking at clubs in England, many of which have since changed hands and others which might still be available, but a big part of our review was not just the market opportunity but also; ‘What is the nature of the fan? What is this club?’ 

“Ipswich is a family club and that resonated with all of us. We felt like the values that Berke, Brett and myself hold dear were so well aligned with the values of the club. 

“It’s not just about capital, it’s about culture. It’s about feeling like we’re a family and we’re all in this together. When it’s like that you don’t want to let down your family member. 

“This feels like a match made in heaven. Time will tell, but we hope that’s true."

He adds: “Our plan is to all come over late July through to early August, at a minimum, and spend time in the community.

“My wife has already been on all the virtual tours of Ipswich, trying to get a feel for all the sights, sounds, smells, the food. She’s saying ‘Mark you need to get on these things right away’.

“We just can’t wait to all come over together with our wives and children and spend a lot of time there this summer." 

Mark Detmer never did buy a Ferrari. Give him a Suffolk Punch over an Italian stallion any day.