With the news that former managing director Christian Purslow has finally left the club after finishing his role as a special adviser to the new owners NESV, what legacy does the former Cambridge graduate leave behind him?
Well it’s fair to say that Purslow’s spell at the club coincided with a tumultuous period in Liverpool’s recent history. The problems off the field with former Chairmen George Gillett and Tom Hicks have been well documented, but thankfully Purslow’s reputation hasn’t been sullied by association with two of the worst Chairman’s in living memory.
During his time at the club Purslow was able to do a lot of good, despite the constraints and difficult conditions in which he worked under. He was instrumental in the club signing a hefty sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank worth £80m over four years, a deal that by far eclipsed what the club were previously receiving from long-term sponsors Carlsberg. However, Purslow’s true day of triumph came in court on the 15th October last year, whereby Hicks and Gillett were finally ousted in favour of new ownership in the form of NESV.
Purslow, Ian Ayre and Martin Broughton will forever be immortalised in fans heart’s for going that extra mile in a bid to secure a change of ownership. The aforementioned trio out-voted the gruesome twosome of Hicks and Gillett in favour of NESV’s bid in the board room and lay the groundwork for their ousting.
The next step was most surprising, as Hicks and Gillett were said to have dismissed Ayre and Purslow for a breach of contract after voting against their continued ownership. It took a day in the High Court to finally put to bed the ownership issue and lift the cloud that had hung over Anfield while the deeply unpopular owners were in charge.
Purslow has also been at the forefront of the club’s continue growing presence in Asia. It is thought by many business experts that it is extremely difficult for a club to break the Asian market; Chelsea so far have struggled despite numerous attempts and pre-season tours to the area. But Liverpool were already a presence on the continent and credit must go to Purslow for trying to fully take advantage of the commercial gains and opportunities that could be achieved.
A major criticism of his predecessor in the role, Rick Parry, was that his dithering and indecisive nature had cost the club dearly in the long-haul as Man Utd leapfrogged them as the continent’s main Premier League attraction.
Of course, it was not all smooth sailing for Purslow while at the club. He was instrumental in bringing Roy Hodgson to the club after dismissing Rafa Benitez at the end of last season.
On the surface, the move for Hodgson seemed to tick all of the boxes – he was an experienced hand on the tiller, capable of getting the best out of limited players and excellent at working with limited resources as he had just shown by leading Fulham to the Europa League final. He was forthright, likeable and honest.
However, Hodgson’s reign at the club was a complete and utter disaster. The man brought in to steady the ship did anything but, and it became clear that Hodgson and the club just weren’t a good fit as the manager struggled to shake-off the small-team mentality that he had garnered while at Fulham.
Purslow also had a fractious relationship with former boss Rafa Benitez and many fans even turned on him prior to his discovery of NESV’s interest, with many holding him responsible for the club’s failure to find any significant new investment.
To my knowledge at least, Purslow was responsible, along with Ian Ayre and to a lesser extent Martin Broughton, in an increased level of professionalism on behalf of the club in their commercial ventures. The club appears to be finally expanding as a global market presence, something which is long overdue considering the club’s fantastic history and Liverpool now seem in safe hands under NESV; something which Purslow must take great credit for that.
He stepped down from his managing director role at the club shortly after NESV took full control of the club, but he initially stayed in a special advisor role on an ad hoc basis. New Liverpool Chairman Tom Werner had this to say of Purslow: “We will always be grateful to Christian for his vital contribution to the club during his time as managing director and latterly as a special adviser. He has played a fundamental role ins securing the future of the club and in the sale of LFC to new ownership.”
The club is now in undoubtedly better shape than when he first came to it, and you can’t ask for much more than that from a Managing Director. His spell at the club has been anything but easy at times, but his instrumental presence in securing the club new ownership and a huge sponsorship deal should ensure that his legacy will be viewed on favourably in the years to come.
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