Christian Purslow is a minority investor, and CEO of Aston Villa football club.
In this article we delve into the controversial history of Purslow’s football boardroom affairs, and his ambitious aspirations for the future.
Whilst not always operating from the base of a football club, the British businessman graduated from Harvard Business school with an MBA (Master of Business Administration) where he finished in the top 5% of his class.
Following his major success at one of the worlds highest ranked business schools, Purslow moved back across the Atlantic and trained as an analyst in a Consulting firm.
From this point on, Purslow began a career which saw him take up roles as managing directors, head of acquisitions, and members of various boards before he co-founded a private equity firm in 2003.
Tough start to life in football
Purslow’s first role at a footballing institution came when he was appointed as the managing director of Liverpool football club in June 2009, under the contentious ownership of Hicks and Gillett. His primary role was to find a buyer for the club that had been stricken with debt by the American owners.
Despite the obstacles that stood in his way, such as the financial crash of 2008 that had only worsened the monetary state of the club, Purslow was able to find a buyer, and left the club just over year later.
A despised man on the red half of Merseyside though, Purslow was, and will be, forever hated on the Kop for his desire to run the entire football club in the way that he (and only he) wanted.
Without going into the finer details of his short-lived, however incredibly destructive spell at the club, amongst him quite simply getting rid of some of the clubs best players, and paying ridiculous amounts for new signings, Purslow became known by the fans and players as always having to be the center of everybody’s attention.
So much so that the self-proclaimed ‘Fernando Torres of finance’ was rather nicknamed by the playing squad as Forrest Gump for his ability to place himself central to all events – no way to ‘run’ a football club.
As well as this, he involved himself in supporter uproar by playing to the crowd when he met with the supporter’s union to discuss the unstable ownership, before asking to have his unsavory comments edited out of the tape before it was played to the shareholders.
In one of his final acts as LFC managing director, Purslow chose to sign Joe Cole on a free transfer which would cost the club £28 million over the next four years. A deal only worsened by the fact that Cole only managed 26 Premier League appearances in that time.
At over £8.5 million per topflight goal for the Englishman, this was just one of Purslow’s dealings that left a financial bombshell the club have only recently been able to shake off.
Chelsea’s sponsorship phenomenon
In October 2014, Chelsea announced that Purslow had joined the club as ‘head of global commercial activities’.
This position saw him take a far more behind the scenes role at the club which appeared to suit him better than in his time north of the capital.
During a four-year-stint in this role, Purslow captured some of the biggest and lucrative sponsorship deals in English football history.
Obtaining sponsorship over £1 billion including a £900 million deal with Nike as well as a deal worth £40 million a year with Yokohama – the second-largest shirt sponsorship deal in English football history.
In contrast to his time at Liverpool, Purslow left with many admirers – “he will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge” said blues chairman Bruce Buck on the 56-year-old’s departure.
‘Step down’ shows ambition
When Purslow arrived at B6 in August 2018, I was among the most skeptical. Surely if his previous two clubs were within the top six of England, what had driven him into joining a team that was beginning its third successive campaign in the championship.
Added to this was the chaos he caused in his primary job at the helm of a football club – the nerves were prevalent when his arrival was announced to say the least.
However, I’m pleased to write that Purslow (up to this point) has been rather a resounding success at Villa.
Whilst improving the academy with a new long-term ambition, Purslow has also spent money improving the Aston Villa Women’s team who enjoyed promotion to the Women’s Super League after an unbeaten season, 2019/20.
Among his other major moves, he was responsible for sacking Steve Bruce and appointing Dean Smith. A man who has already gone on to be a candidate for Villa’s best manager of the 21st century having immediately promoted a team that was in disarray before his arrival, taken them on two trips under the Wembley arch, and kept the club in the Premier League against all odds in under two years.
Not only is Purslow CEO, he also retains a minority stake in the club. Therefore, he has an added drive to help the club succeed in its goals.
In an interview upon his arrival, he stated that “I wouldn’t have come to this club purely as CEO”. Meaning that he believes the potential for success in the future is a real possibility therefore explaining his monetary commitments.
With the long-term ambitions of restoring Villa to the successes they once enjoyed so clearly mapped out by the owners, Purslow’s endeavor to execute these aspirations has progressed significantly during his two-year stint at the reforming club.