BusinessBusiness RecoveryProfile: David Buchler – Earning his spurs

Profile: David Buchler - Earning his spurs

Walking into David Buchler's office, you immediately see something unexpected. Instead of certificates and pictures testifying to his business prowess, you are faced with a wall packed with pictures of family, friends and holidays, much as you might expect to find in someone's living room.

The shots testify to the importance Buchler places on life outside work.

The chairman of Kroll Buchler Phillips, president of R3 and non-executive vice-chairman of Tottenham Hotspur football club, is happy to show there is more to him than just his business achievements.

Looking over to the pictures, he says: ‘You never forget that that is what is important in life. We all work hard and strive for great things in every field but at the end of the day it’s health and family that we do it all for. We do it for lots of things, which are just not work-orientated. So there’s a lot to life outside work and we should never forget that.’

Buchler stresses this does not mean you shouldn’t work hard. ‘At the end of the day just recognising that life has to have a balance is enormously important. It’s very easy to lose touch with that.’

Juggling three hats

Buchler says juggling his three hats is not as hard as it seems, although his various roles keep him busy and make it difficult to catch him. He explains: ‘The Tottenham role is non-executive and the roles I play at R3 and at Kroll are ones which I’m quite used to by the nature of the work that I do.’

He describes his roles as ‘very strategic’. As for keeping on top of them, he says: ‘I just make sure that I’m performing at the highest level to give proper time and concentration to each.’

His role as non-executive vice-chairman of Tottenham Hotspur is not taking up as much of his time this year as it was in 2001.

Many credit Buchler with saving the club from financial difficulties, but the non-executive is quick to play that down. He says: ‘I went in there just to re-organise the management of the club and how it was run.

Financially it was very stable and just needed an internal review and reorganisation.’

He adds the new management wanted him to give the club a facelift which would enable Spurs to think about what were the important issues facing the club – from a strategic point of view – over the next five to ten years.

Those issues, well-known to any Spurs fan, were style and a concentration on youth. To that the board would add the ‘radical’ issue of marketing.

Getting value for money

‘One of the main things that I looked at was that the club had spent about £50m over the past five years on new players. From a success point of view I didn’t think they had got value for money. So we had to look at how we could spend money wisely.’

Buchler’s football roles do not end there as he unofficially advised the Nationwide Football League over its current cash crisis, although the league says KBP stopped advising it when it started the administration of Bradford City, as that would have presented a conflict of interest.

He argues that football’s crisis – which is hitting clubs both in Europe and here in the UK – stems from the reduction of money coming in following the collapse of television companies such as ITV Digital. ‘That’s going to have a major impact on football all over Europe. In every country the cycle of money which goes from the very top clubs all the way through the divisions and across countries is hardly available at the moment because there is so little surplus cash in the system,’ he explains.

Earlier in the year Buchler was more outspoken on the infamous ‘super creditor’ rule which gives football players – the biggest source of cash outflow from clubs – the first pick at an ailing club’s pie. And although in May he suggested the league should relax this rule, now he seems resigned to the fact that it will not be pressured into action.

He says he understands football has to take care of its own but adds: ‘There is a real understanding of the super creditor rule and the fact that there are times when football needs to find some flexibility. In finding that flexibility I think football will be stronger for it.’

Clubs, he believes, will have to react by watching their finances. ‘For most clubs at the moment it is a question of battening down the hatches and just being very circumspect about any funding and expenditure until the whole process of inter-reaction between the media and football enables there to be more and better financial stability.’

But Buchler is adamant clubs can and should be run as businesses and should be self-financing.

He says the problem is that they have not been run as businesses in the past. And he adds having publicly listed clubs that are forced to take into account shareholder interests is a good thing.

Although the football has generated much interest, Buchler has been careful not to let his role at R3 slip and is working on several projects over the years including discussing the Enterprise Bill with the government.

Personal social responsibility

One of the main initiatives R3 launched this summer, spurned on by the crisis in accountancy, is an in-depth education on the concept of personal social responsibility. The association has launched two booklets outlining insolvency practitioners’ duties and encouraging transparency.

And although Buchler and R3 have aired a few criticisms at the Enterprise Bill, the insolvency expert is now very supportive of the new legislation.

‘I really do think that the Enterprise Bill is moving our area of rescue and recovery more towards the good bits of the American system where there is a recognition that failure is part of business culture and not always avoidable in the context of a risk culture,’ he says.

Admittedly, Buchler’s views have slowly been swayed since he sold the business of Buchler Phillips to US counterpart Kroll in 1999. Since then he has been spending a lot of time working in Kroll’s New York headquarters.

He says: ‘Working in the American culture has opened me up to the very positive nature and the more relaxed nature of the framework in which businesses operate outside the UK. That’s why I think the Enterprise Bill actually manages to a large degree to encompass the best of the American system while retaining the best of the UK system.’

Being an insolvency practitioner, according to Buchler, takes a lot of patience, flexibility, courage and ‘sometimes dogged determination’. And Buchler has displayed these qualities in abundance since he began working at Arthur Andersen in the 1980s.

Significantly, he built up his own successful insolvency practice, Buchler Phillips, and then sold it. He concludes: ‘There have been lots of ups and downs through that … it’s been a fantastic ride.’

But he says it is his family life that has kept him in check. ‘I have a five-year-old daughter and she keeps me in balance all the way through life by jumping on me at six o’clock in the morning as well as falling asleep in my arms in the evening whenever we go out to the theatre or go out for a meal.’


This week it became clear that David Buchler’s work helping in the restructuring of the Tottenham Hotspurs football club is paying off.

After a turnover of £48.4m and pre-tax losses of £3.5m in the year to 30 June, 2001, the Premiership club saw revenues rise to £65m and pre-tax profits of £900,000 over the past 12 months. Finance director Paul Viner says he is pleased with the results but adds it is important not to lose sight of finances and keep costs under control.

The club spent £16.7m on players but made a profit on player disposals of £6.3m. But chartered accountant Viner warns that when they made the sales, there was a market for player sales that ‘may not be repeatable’.

Viner says many decisions Buchler took as an executive director, between February and October 2001, and his work as a non-executive, are responsible for the current results. ‘Some of the work he did will now be filtering through in the results.’

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