Newcastle United yesterday named David Stonehouse, the finance director of bitter North-East rivals Sunderland, as its new chief executive. Meanwhile, Liverpool has signed former Newcastle FD Les Wheatley, formerly of Ernst & Young, to oversee its forthcoming floatation.
Stonehouse – who joined the Sunderland board in 1996 and was heavily involved in the club’s recent stock market flotation – will begin his new role at Newcastle next month.
He replaces Freddie Fletcher, a controversial figure at the club who recently became embroiled in a heated season ticket row with the club’s supporters. Last month, Newcastle won a court case against six fans over its decision to relocate their seats to make way for corporate hospitality accommodation. The fans claimed the purchase of £500 club bonds entitled them to their chosen seats for ten years.
A Newcastle United spokeswoman, however, denied that the boardroom reshuffle had anything to do with the feud. She said of Fletcher: ‘He’s 59-years-old and there are other things he wants to do.’
The choice of forty-five year old Stonehouse as his successor is seen by Geordie fans as an attempt to build bridges with the club’s fan base. While he was at Sunderland, the board claimed that they put ordinary supporters above the interests of corporate spectators.
On Merseyside, Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry announced the appointment of his former Ernst & Young colleague Les Wheatley as the club’s new FD. Native Liverpudlian Wheatley will be charged with the Red’s likely £400m flotation, which could push Liverpool as high as second in the rich list of British football clubs.
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