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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Thank you Eddie and goodbye – a tribute to Wanderers' former owner

Thank you Eddie and goodbye – a tribute to Wanderers' former owner

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Eddie Davies did not have the bottomless spending power of a Russian oligarch, or Middle Eastern royalty but he brought something to Wanderers in his 13 years as the club’s owner that no one else could – roots.

Little Lever-raised Davies fell in love with Bolton Wanderers as a child when Nat Lofthouse lifted the 1958 FA Cup at Wembley.

Success later in life enabled him to fund their next great era, a team of international heroes who would inspire another generation on the terraces.

Born Kevin Keenan in Salford on June 18,1946, Davies was adopted by Edwin and Hannah Davies and brought up in Bolton, attending Farnworth Grammar School.

He was a keen school footballer but excelled in mathematics and later took a doctorate in engineering at Manchester University before qualifying as a management accountant.

Davies married his first wife, Jean, in 1968 and worked with the Avon Rubber and Scapa Group in his early career, before moving on to become chief executive, then chairman of Strix, an Isle of Man-based company which manufactures thermostat controls for electric kettles.

At one stage it was estimated 20 per cent of the world’s appliances utilised its safety controls and worldwide sales of £100million-plus were backed up with numerous awards for design and innovation.

He was also awarded an OBE for services to industry in 2000, improved to a CBE for philanthropy in 2012.

Davies had a son and daughter in his first marriage, which came to an end in 1987. In 1989 he married his second wife, Sue.

He had already joined the board at Wanderers by the time the company was sold in two instalments to private equity interests in 2000 and 2005, allowing him to plough more money into the club.

By 2003, Davies was being touted by Phil Gartside and Allan Duckworth as the only means of avoiding financial catastrophe at a club being strangled by a £38million debt.

He was already the biggest single benefactor Bolton had ever seen, ploughing in £14m of his own fortune, yet it was when he paid £2m in December 2003 to take his stake from 29.7 per cent to 97.99 per cent that he became the outright owner.

In doing so, he rendered the shares of hundreds of supporters worthless – something which still rankles among those who had invested heavily in Wanderers’ previous fundraising initiatives. Others would claim the era of success which followed was worth the inconvenience.

Although Davies was notoriously reticent to court publicity, he did offer some early indication his greater involvement would not see Wanderers embark on a massive spending spree.

“I have a keen interest in how the club is run and I believe there is no other way to live than the way we are operating at the moment,” he told The Bolton Evening News. “We’ve got to be realistic. People who have run football clubs in the past have not been too concerned about the long term; their interest has been in short-term results.”

It was clear, however, that Sam Allardyce was able to invest in higher-profile players than he had previously, as evidenced with the capture of globally-recognised names like Jay Jay Okocha, Fernando Hierro, Youri Djorkaeff and Ivan Campo.

Four top-eight finishes and two European campaigns marked the pinnacle of Wanderers’ success, at which stage the exit of Allardyce as manager triggered a slow and painful descent for both the club and its owner.

Allardyce had insisted Davies and chairman, Phil Gartside, were unwilling to match his own ambition in the transfer market. Significant cash sums would be spent in the years after his departure on the likes of Johan Elmander, Gary Cahill, Fabrice Muamba, Matt Taylor and David Ngog, yet the hit-to-miss ratio was much lower. This period also saw wage bills increase considerably from £30.7m in 2007 to a high of £56m in 2011.

Wanderers were relegated after an 11-year spell in the top flight in 2012, just as TV revenues were about to expand beyond anybody’s expectations.

The lure of bigger pay-outs prompted the club to gamble on retaining many of their higher earners and offering some lucrative contracts in an effort to escape the Championship at the first time of asking.

But as the debts escalated, their failure to make the play-offs in 2013 ultimately led to Davies deciding to sell.

When he sold Wanderers for just one pound to Dean Holdsworth and Ken Anderson in March 2016, the handover had been complicated. The sad passing of chairman, Phil Gartside, had prompted Davies to install Trevor Birch as an emergency measure with the brief of completing the sale.

To stave off the various due debts assets, such as the club’s Euxton training ground and some car parks, were sold.

Tax and VAT bills had also accrued, leaving the HMRC to issue winding-up petitions and the payment of staff wages had also been affected, all of which amounted to a slightly bitter final chapter to what had once been a wonderful fairytale.

In business terms, however, Davies’s contribution to Wanderers was quite staggering.

He had written off around £175m in loans and kept another £15m in the club, to be repaid in instalments depending on league position, or promotion to the Premier League.

As part of the agreement he was also installed as club president, retained his place in the boardroom and his name continued to be attached to the Lostock academy.

And Davies’s legacy lives on. A generous £5million loan was made to Ken Anderson and signed off days before his death, secured not only with a legal charge against the chairman’s shares in Burnden Leisure Ltd but also fixed and floating senior charges on all club assets.

Little is known about the repayment terms of the bridging loan made to Anderson but confirmation arrived on the day of Davies’s funeral that the chairman had loaned on the money to the club – again with terms unknown.

It is also unclear whether the money left in by Davies – who had waived his bonuses to date – can or will be recalled.

Wanderers declined to comment once again when contacted by The Bolton News but the scale of the security involved suggest Davies’s family could be king-makers from here on in.


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