Awards 2007: Personality of the Year

AA Awards

Sponsored by FD Solutions

Winner: Alex Horne, Wembley Stadium

Most top-level FDs live their lives in the public eye, but are afforded some
measure of protection from the slavering hordes by the buffer of the chief

In Alex Horne’s case, his appointment as the Football Association’s finance
boss was seen as a bold stroke in 2004, but assuming control of the construction
‘car crash’ that was Wembley Stadium would make him accountable on a level
rarely experienced by most finance professionals.

By taking on the challenge of transforming Wembley from an unfinished husk of
250,000 tonnes of concrete and steel, containing 1,720km of power and lighting
cables, into the finished product, he exposed himself to the most intense
scrutiny from media, fans and a government desperate to avoid another white
elephant after the Millennium Dome debacle.

Looking at Horne’s CV, his experience amply qualified him for the Wembley
Stadium resurrection. After training at Coopers and Lybrand as a chartered
accountant, he moved into the business recovery sector. He spent two years
living in Bangkok working on financial restructuring assignments and then
returned to London.

He joined a business regeneration practice working on a number of business
improvement and corporate turnaround projects before an FA role came up for
grabs. Horne joined the FA in July 2003 and in less than three years was
promoted to the FD’s position.

As FD and company secretary of the Football Association, Horne took charge of
how the world’s most popular game was run financially in one of the world’s most
fanatical footballing countries.

He added the challenge of Wembley Stadium to his list of responsibilities
after a matter of months and, on his appointment as managing director late in
2006, Horne was thrown in at the deep end.

Horne first had to help hammer out a solution with Multiplex, the Australian
builder dragging its heels on getting Wembley in a position to allow fans
through the turnstiles.

Multiplex was meant to have the stadium completed in time for the 2006 FA Cup
final, and when the deadline was missed, Wembley National Stadium Ltd promptly
claimed liquidated damages and held back £38m of the cash owed to Multiplex. The
builder, however, wanted this money and an additional £70m to complete the
project. Multiplex then presented a claim of £350m against WNSL.

After Horne went into crunch talks with Multiplex, the deadlock was broken
and a deal was sealed with the FA agreeing to give Multiplex an extra 130 days
to finish the project.

The stadium met the new deadline as promised, sparking a turnaround that was
nothing short of spectacular.

The only negative publicity the stadium has received is down to the ‘prawn
sandwich brigade’ staying in the corporate lounges for too long at half time
during England matches.

Still, the old adage ‘if you build it, they will come’ is an idealistic view
to take when it comes to national stadia hosting money-spinning events.

Wembley still has to fight off competition from the Millennium Stadium and
Twickenham for events and with Horne at the helm, Wembley has hosted the Concert
for Diana and pulled off a real coup in staging the first regular season NFL
match ever to be played outside North America between the Miami Dolphins and the
New York Giants. Wembley is now on the shortlist to stage the Champions League
Final in 2010 or 2011, which represents a remarkable contrast from the situation
this time last year.

Horne told Accountancy Age earlier this year that he was keen to stay on as
MD of the flourishing stadium. ‘It’s a fantastic job. If the opportunity arose
for me to stay on and take the job permanently, I’d be very interested.’

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