How Dean Hoyle worked his way up to take over at Huddersfield
WHEN Dean Hoyle left school in 1983, he had no qualifications, no trade, no real prospects. A Huddersfield Town fan since childhood, he would catch the bus from his Heckmondwike home to the old Leeds Road ground.
Three decades on, the 48-yearold is Yorkshire’s 12th-richest man, his personal wealth estimated at £254m.
And he no longer queues for tickets. He doesn’t need the bus. He’s got the best seat in the directors’ box and a personal parking space out front. “Dean is the best thing to happen to Huddersfield in years,” said Terriers legend Andy Booth. “Too many clubs these days are owned by people who have no affiliation to them. But Dean was a supporter before and he’s still a supporter now. He cares, and that’s priceless.”
Back in the days when Hoyle was roaring on Mick Buxton’s men (and his favourite player Malcolm Brown), he would never have dreamt of owning the club. Now he does – thanks to a keen-eyed boss, elbow grease and several million birthday cards.
Stuck for something to do after ditching school, the 16-year-old Hoyle signed up as an engineer’s labourer on a YTS scheme.
Luckily, his employer judged there was more to his new recruit than mindless skivvying and packed him off to college on an engineering apprenticeship. Three years later, Hoyle was awarded apprentice of the year.
“It was at that moment that I understood how hard work and determination can pay off,” he said in 2012. “It was a turning point in my life. I worked in engineering until I was 24 and then decided to become self-employed.”
Self-employment was far from glamorous. In 1993, Hoyle began selling greetings cards from the back of a van in Wakefield. In 1997, he and wife Janet opened their first shop, the Card Factory. Aiming to undercut their rivals, almost every card was priced under £1.
Back then, Birthdays was a national powerhouse and Hoyle still remembers their ‘head honchos’ paying him a visit. “I was manning the till and my wife was stacking the shelves,” he said. “They walked round, had a look and one of them said ‘This is nothing special’.”
Yet gradually Hoyle caught up the competition, then overtook them. By 2008, Birthdays was heading for administration while the Card Factory boasted 500 shops and profits of £70m. And it was then that Hoyle followed his heart and bought his childhood club, finally giving up his season ticket on the Kilner Bank.
Even for a seasoned businessman, initial lessons were harsh. “At times, it felt like a case of ‘You earn the money, Dean, and then we will spend it for you – but don’t ask what we are doing’,” he said of the reign of Stan Ternent.
Ternent was dismissed, yet even that act of ruthlessness was underpinned by the personal touch that would endear Hoyle to fans, players and a succession of managers.
“I remember when Stan was sacked, Dean called the players to a meeting,” said former Terriers skipper Jonny Worthington. “He explained why Stan had to go, allowed us to have our say. All the players really appreciated being treated like that.”
Hoyle is no soft touch. His quest for Championship football saw him sack close friend Lee Clark just months after completing a 43game unbeaten run, then Simon Grayson, the man who finally achieved the dream. Mark Robins bit the dust just one game into the current season.Yet it is testament to Hoyle’s straight-talking sincerity that none of them bear a grudge.
“It hurt because I loved the job,” said Clark, who has since been invited back to the club with his family as a guest of Hoyle. “But Dean is a fan who put a lot of his time and money into Huddersfield. He did what he felt was right and I respect that. My relationship with him goes beyond football and we are still friends.”
Now Chris Powell is the man tasked with keeping Huddersfield in the Championship.
“Dean was the reason I came here,” said the former England fullback. “He watches training, comes to every game. He’s a local man who grew up with the team, loves the team and now owns the team.
“That’s how it always used to be. I think he’s the last of a dying breed.”
RAGS TO RICHES: Dean Hoyle has worked hard for his success