| Peter Kenyon
When Manchester United lost their Premiership title to Arsenal in 2002, Peter Kenyon scoffed at the boasting from Highbury that there had been a “shift in power” in English football. It would take more than one trophy, he said, to turn back the tide of United’s domination.
But Kenyon’s defection to Chelsea Monday would suggest that power is indeed shifting, albeit in a different direction.
If the mood at the last United shareholders’ meeting is an indicator of the supporters’ feelings then Kenyon will not be missed among the 65,000 home fans who fill Old Trafford on match day.
Shareholders United, the organisation that represents fans who have small investments in the club, was furious with him for paying out a special dividend to appease the City instead of reinvesting the money into the club.
However, the decision of this son of a Cheshire factory owner to join Chelsea will also strike fear into United’s vast support. Kenyon might have been a businessman but he was also a lifelong United fan and there will be a nagging doubt among supporters that financially they are no longer the biggest show in town.
Roman Abramovich, with the help of the top football agent, Pini Zahavi, clearly believes he has got the right man to help him build a Chelsea team capable of conquering Europe.
Kenyon, who was on £625,000 a year, has also assessed where the real money lies and joined a club of huge resources, but his management will be under closer scrutiny now than ever before.
This summer, Kenyon should have been triumphant at having regained the Premiership title in time to take his club on a groundbreaking tour of America that would earn the club £5 million in fees and strengthen ties with sponsors like Nike and Budweiser.
However, there were doubts about how United had fared in the £25 million deal to take David Beckham to Real Madrid and then, on the day of United’s trip to America, disaster struck in negotiations to sign Ronaldinho.
Paris Saint Germain had accused United all summer of refusing to offer the right money for the player and, on the eve of the club’s tour, the Brazilian chose to join Barcelona.
Appointed by the then chief executive Martin Edwards in 1997 as his deputy, Kenyon had taken over from Edwards in August 2000 but in recent years had to contend with the take-over threat posed by the investment company Cubic Expression.
Backed by former bookmaker J.P. McManus and racehorse owner John Magnier, their stake reached 11.4 per cent in July.
Reports of rifts in the boardroom at Old Trafford have failed to go away and the failure to land Ronaldinho will not have helped the chief executive’s relationship with Ferguson.
However, it was Kenyon who tried to persuade the United manager to stay longer before he postponed his retirement at the start of last year and the two have enjoyed a much closer relationship than the one between Ferguson and Edwards.
First Veron and then Kenyon. Resisting this “shift of power” could prove more trouble than any resistance Arsenal have offered of late.