In the news: John McKenzie

April 4, 2003

The former rector of the London Institute, economist John McKenzie, is the new chairman of Leeds United, the Premier League football club with an £80 million deficit.

As well as tackling financial problems, Professor McKenzie must turn around the fortunes of the club, which is hovering just above the relegation zone. He takes over from Peter Risdale, who had become unpopular among fans. Manager Terry Venables was sacked a fortnight ago and the club has sold many of its top players.

Professor McKenzie is well placed to deal with the problems. As rector of Liverpool Polytechnic in the mid 1980s - when funds for polytechnics were distributed through the city treasurers - he battled with deputy council leader Derek Hatton over the city's £25 million deficit. Among the 31,000 public sector workers handed redundancy slips were 3,000 of his academics.

Professor McKenzie, 65, has been passionate about the beautiful game since childhood when his father sat on the international committee of the Football Association. His career has weaved between managing academic mergers, working in the private sector for several large blue-chip companies and setting up consultancies.

He bought his first Leeds United season ticket in the 1970s when he lived in Ilkley overseeing the merger of two colleges. He moved to London in 1986 to become the first rector of the new London Institute. He stepped aside to work part time as director for international development in 1996. But his home remained in Yorkshire and over the years he has become one of the largest non-institutional shareholders. He joined the club board last October and joined the plc board two months ago.

The problems facing a football club will be no different from those faced by businesses or universities, Professor McKenzie has said. "I'll tell them what I told the heads of the colleges of the London Institute," he told The THES. "'I will support you until the day I fire you'."

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