Trusted ad­viser to Ir­ish soc­cer in­ter­na­tion­als

The Irish Times - - Obituaries - Michael Kennedy

Born: Jan­uary 9th, 1944 Died: June 20th, 2020

When a mu­tual ac­quain­tance sug­gested to a teenage Dave O’Leary that he get Michael Kennedy to look after the con­veyanc­ing on the Lon­don town­house he was about to buy, he could have had no idea that one of the quirkier sto­ries in Ir­ish foot­ball was about to be kick-started.

Over the years that fol­lowed the so­lic­i­tor would be­come a trusted ad­viser to many Ire­land in­ter­na­tion­als and, as word of ne­go­ti­at­ing skills got around dress­ing rooms, quite a few house­hold names from other coun­tries too.

He had no in­ter­est in the lime­light, how­ever. While his role and in­flu­ence briefly be­came a mat­ter of sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic in­ter­est in Ire­land dur­ing 2002’s Saipan af­fair when he came to be seen as key fig­ure in the ef­fort to get Roy Keane back out to the World Cup, he gen­er­ally stayed well be­low the radar. His in­volve­ment in his fa­mous clients’ af­fairs were only high­lighted in the course of oc­ca­sional re­ports on their con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions or dis­putes.

Par­ents

Though born in north Lon­don, Kennedy would have qual­i­fied very com­fort­ably to play for Ire­land on the an­ces­try rule. His par­ents came from the Din­gle penin­sula, Michael from Inch, El­lie (Nell) from Cloghane. Hav­ing left for Eng­land in­de­pen­dently of each other, they met in Lon­don

and mar­ried in June 1941 in High­gate, the leafy sub­urb where Michael was born 2½ years later, the sec­ond of their six chil­dren.

He went the lo­cal Catholic gram­mar school St Aloy­sius’, after which his ca­reer in the law started at Her­bert Reeves & Co where he was taken on as Ar­ti­cled Clerk.

He sub­se­quently stud­ied at the Col­lege of Law, then based at Lan­caster Gate, where he would meet his fu­ture wife, Penny. He qual­i­fied as a so­lic­i­tor in June 1966, con­tin­ued to work at what be­came Reeves Law, a rel­a­tively small but well re­garded firm spe­cial­is­ing in the prop­erty re­lated end of the busi­ness, and worked his way up to se­nior part­ner.

Along the way, he met O’Leary who, hav­ing hired him to buy his first home, re­turned after be­ing of­fered a new deal by Arse­nal to ask if knew any­thing about foot­ballers’ con­tracts. Kennedy, a keen Arse­nal fan, said no but sug­gested that he had seen enough con­tracts of other types in his time that it might still be worth the player’s while to let him have a look.

At a time when many play­ers ei­ther signed what was put in front of them or set­tled for do­ing just a lit­tle bit bet­ter, Kennedy’s in­volve­ment helped se­cure O’Leary a much im­proved of­fer.

O’Leary’s team-mate Frank Sta­ple­ton asked who had pro­vided the ad­vice and sought Kennedy out. When Sta­ple­ton moved to Manch­ester United he, in turn, rec­om­mended the lawyer to Eng­land in­ter­na­tional Ray Wilkins.

Rep­u­ta­tion

The num­ber of play­ers he was in­volved with grew into a very long list over the years. He had a rep­u­ta­tion for putting their in­ter­ests first, for be­ing a tough ne­go­tia­tor, re­spected by clubs and, re­calls O’Leary, had a knack for know­ing how much there was left in a po­ten­tial deal.

Niall Quinn re­mem­bers driv­ing to Manch­ester with Kennedy to dis­cuss the terms of his move from Arse­nal to City in 1990 and be­ing will­ing to sign there and then when the club’s open­ing gam­bit in­volved tre­bling his ex­ist­ing wage. His ini­tial re­ac­tion was shock when he heard Kennedy qui­etly tell club of­fi­cials that, “no, no, no, no, no . . . that’s not nearly enough.” It all worked out rather nicely for the Dubliner in the end.

On the rec­om­men­da­tion of O’Leary again, he rep­re­sented Roy Keane in the talks around the key con­tracts of his play­ing ca­reer at Manch­ester United and early moves into man­age­ment. Keane said he would trust Kennedy “with his life”. He also fa­mously helped to make David Con­nolly the best paid player in the Nether­lands for a spell.

He of­ten failed to bill for his ser­vices, it is said, but when he did he billed for his time as a lawyer rather than tak­ing a much more lu­cra­tive per­cent­age as an agent would have done. He did sub­se­quently join the board of the agency For­ma­tion, in which Kevin Mo­ran was in­volved, for a time.

Widely re­garded as a worka­holic known to be most ac­ces­si­ble at his of­fice in the evenings, many of those who knew him sug­gested the in­volve­ment with foot­ball was a hobby, some­thing to fill in the time left over after busi­ness and fam­ily, but he es­ti­mated at one point that it took up to 30 per cent of his time.

He was not as ac­tive in it in re­cent years but con­tin­ued to work and was at the of­fices of Reeves when he took ill the day be­fore he died. He is spo­ken of with huge warmth by those who knew him and, in many cases, still sought his coun­sel.

He is sur­vived by his wife Penny, their grown-up daugh­ter and son Han­nah and Ni­cholas, his grand­chil­dren Am­ber, Finn and Hol­lie as well as his broth­ers, Jimmy and John (an en­ter­tain­ment lawyer and record com­pany ex­ec­u­tive who was awarded an OBE for his part in or­gan­is­ing Live Aid and re­lated fundrais­ing ven­tures) and sis­ters Pat and Anne. He was pre­de­ceased by his brother Mau­rice.

His in­flu­ence briefly be­came a mat­ter of sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic in­ter­est dur­ing 2002’s Saipan af­fair when he came to be seen as key fig­ure in the ef­fort to get Roy Keane back to the World Cup

Michael Kennedy: a trusted ad­viser to many Ire­land in­ter­na­tion­als and, as word of ne­go­ti­at­ing skills got around dress­ing rooms, quite a few house­hold names from other coun­tries.

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