Blackburn Rovers: When Owners Turn Chicken

One emerging problem with the “benefactor model” of club ownership is “what happens next?” Blackburn Rovers have struggled with this problem since their 1990s benefactor, steel magnate Jack Walker, died in 2000. And current owners Venky’s are not, yet anyway, the solution. Walker, who famously took Rovers to/bought the 1995 Premier League title, made some post-benefactor plans, forming the “Jack Walker Settlement” (JWS), a trust based in the Jersey tax haven, where he lived from 1974, when his riches attracted taxes which the great benefactor was…erm…unprepared to give. The Trust dealt with the practicalities of Walker’s business legacy, to “promote and enlarge all my business interests.” For Rovers this meant providing finance “for the foreseeable future”, which manifested itself in annual £3m contributions. £3m wasn’t quite “a lot of money in those days.” But it became exponentially less significant over time. And the end of the “foreseeable future,” as David Conn wrote in the Guardian newspaper in 2008, “was apparently reached in January” when JWS trustees saw “no immediate requirement to invest further.” Rovers’ then-chairman John Williams negotiated funding for the short-term. But the trustees wanted to sell the club and Rovers had already joined the Premier League clubs searching for wealthy investment in those immediate pre-recession days. They attracted suitors such as Daniel Williams, Chris Ronnie and Nabeel Chowdery until the economic freeze turned the trail cold. Then...

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