Whelan took club from zero to hero
Many might have thought Thai mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha had lost his mind when he appointed Susan Whelan as English Premiership side Leicester City CEO in 2011.
This sentiment would not have been driven by any disrespect or stemmed from any chauvinistic tendencies.
It was uttered merely because she had zilch experience in football administration.
However, she came armed with vast experience in trade and retail, and this has paid dividends and is obvious in the aggressive marketing she has adopted for the club.
This saw the club undergo an upturn – from losing money to breaking even in 2014 and making a profit in 2015.
Now they are headed for even dizzier heights after clinching the English Premiership title this week. Those deft with numbers estimate that Srivaddhanaprabha’s investment of R844 million, when he bought the club in 2010, has just jumped 11 times.
Whelan can easily claim that her life has come full circle, both figuratively and almost literally.
Born in Howth, Dublin, Whelan’s climb up the corporate ladder started when she worked for her family’s city centre jewellery shop.
From there, she joined airport and retail holding and management company Aer Rianta International in 1990 as a perfume buyer.
Her job entailed a lot of travelling, and she visited Russia and Thailand for lengthy periods.
Whelan later relocated to Bangkok for the opening of a major retail operation at the city’s then World Trade Centre shopping
She was appointed CEO to oversee the day-to-day running of Leicester City REPORT
Whelan’s working relationship with Srivaddhanaprabha, then known as Vichai Raksriaksorn, was consolidated when his company, King Power, took over the project after Aer Rianta International pulled out.
By the time the company bought Leicester City, Whelan was already a director at King Power and a year later she was appointed CEO to oversee the day-to-day running of the club.
And, as the saying goes, the rest is history and indeed, her performance has confirmed what many are wont to say: that the best man for any job is a woman.
So it was that, after all her travels and travails, she found herself working in Leicester, a town that is a mere 423.3km from Dublin, six hours 34 minutes by road and one hour five minutes by plane from Dublin.
It’s close to home, but Leicester is where she’s rooted for now.
GREAT LEADER Leicester City’s CEO, Susan Whelan, with the club’s then manager, Nigel Pearson (centre), and vice-chairman Aiyawatt Raksriaksorn THE VISIONARY BOSS