People & Business: 'Deadly Doug' ready to bag pounds 4m sackful when Villa floats

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The Independent Online
Doug Ellis, chairman of Aston Villa and nicknamed "Deadly Doug" by Jimmy Greaves because he has sacked more managers than any other Premier chairman since taking over in 1982, will do well out of the club's flotation.

According to yesterday's prospectus, Villa will be valued at pounds 126m, of which Mr Ellis and his family hold a 40 per cent stake. Mr Ellis plans to sell shares worth pounds 4m through the share placing.

Mr Ellis has secured a fearsome reputation by sacking six managers in 28 years. Villa's manager, Brian Little, has just signed a new five-year contract, so he looks a little more secure than most of his predecessors

Mr Ellis is 73 years, has no plans to retire and has no successor lined up. However, his son Peter, a 48-year-old accountant, is a non-executive director on the Villa board, and may step in in due course.

Ellis senior signed professional with Tranmere Rovers in 1938, but his footy career was interrupted by the Second World War, during which he was injured.

He then put his experience in the Royal Navy to good stead by becoming a pioneer of Britain's package tour industry in the 1940s, where he made his fortune.

Since then he has dipped into many businesses, including hotels and electronics, and has been the chairman of 19 different private companies. But his first love remains Villa, and he has written into his will that family members who inherit the shares will not be able to sell them.

Doug joined the club in 1968 when Villa was virtually broke, and stuck in the Third Division. He asked supporters to put in their own money via a share issue. The ploy succeeded, and 8,336 fans bought shares at a fiver each - now worth the equivalent of pounds 1,300, having been as high as pounds 1,600. Villa are still trying to trace 646 shareholders who may be unaware they that they have won the jackpot.

Cross your legs, chaps. Liffe, the London Futures and Options Exchange, held its annual charity dinner at the Dorchester last night, during which guests were invited to bet on various tapes of races, football matches and the like. The organisers also held an auction for various prizes, one of which I hear was a vasectomy. Careful with that scalpel ...

Gary Hamel, the fast-talking American management guru vying with Tom Peters for top slot, whizzed into town this week for a couple of table- thumping seminars. Mr Hamel is hot on strategy, having written a book on the subject with a collaborator, titled Competing for the Future.

He is also a visiting professor at the London Business School, and his trademark seminar style is to prowl the podium, delivering his invective without notes.

He has become a vociferous critic of down-sizing, so human resource types tend to like what he says. He was addressing just such a group this week and described down-sizing as "so easy - even accountants can do it".

Seizing the chance, he then delivered two anti-accountant jokes:

"Anyone know the difference between an introverted accountant and an extrovert accountant? The extrovert one stares at your shoelaces." To great guffaws of laughter from the human resources audience, he piled on: "What does an accountant use for contraception? His personality."

Mr Hamel will not be addressing the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Stand by for a rumpus at the Halifax Building Society AGM next Monday. Serge Lourie and Peter Judge, co-founders of the Halifax Action Group, are opposed to the conversion of Halifax into the bank, and have put themselves up as candidates for election to the board to pursue their views.

And the dynamic duo are no pushovers. As Mr Lourie says this week: "Both Peter Judge and I are properly qualified accountants, both have senior positions on local councils and I serve on a number of quangos including a large pension fund."

Understandably, this has gone down like a lead balloon with Jon Foulds, Halifax chairman, and the board. To add insult to injury, Messrs Lourie and Judge have had the temerity to suggest the Halifax directors are overpaid.

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