Whe­lan took club from zero to hero

CityPress - - Sport - S’BUSISO MSELEKU sm­se­leku@city­press.co.za

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

com­plex.

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.

PHO­TOS: MICHAEL RE­GAN / GETTY IM­AGES

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

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