Mark Goldberg: Small change for the owner who blew £40m

 

You would have thought a man who lost £40m in less than a year in football would have had his fill, but Mark Goldberg's passion for the game is as strong as ever.

Twelve years after Crystal Palace went into administration – less than nine months after he bought control of the club – Goldberg is enjoying a new lease of life as the manager of Bromley, of the Blue Square Bet Conference South. The Kent part-timers face their biggest match of the season next weekend, at Leyton Orient in the FA Cup first round.

"I don't have any desire whatsoever to get involved in the business of football again, but what I do want to do is to see how far I can go as a football manager," he said. "I love managing. I love the excitement of it and one day I want to earn a living doing it."

Football and business are in Goldberg's blood. As a player he earned a scholarship at college in the United States, only to have his ambitions scuppered by a back problem. Until he suffered a knee injury two years ago, he was still playing for Bromley veterans.

He became player-manager of Bromley reserves at 20 before immersing himself in his business. In 1998 he used the sale of shares in his booming IT recruitment company to buy Palace, the club he supported. They were about to be relegated from the Premier League, but Goldberg agreed to buy them for an eye-watering £22.8m from Ron Noades – Noades retained ownership of Selhurst Park, which was then leased back to the club.

Money flowed out of Goldberg's account like water through a sieve. Terry Venables, who negotiated a £135,000 fee just to open talks and agreed a basic salary of £750,000 a year before tax, became manager; new players added to an already hefty wage bill, and agents rubbed their hands: one charged £448,000 for bringing over two unsuccessful Argentinian triallists and a third who made only one first-team start.

"The turnover in the Premier League had been £14m," Goldberg said. "We had salaries of £8m and turnover of £4m when I walked into the club." As co-backers who had been lined up by Goldberg failed to materialise, Palace quickly slid into administration, where they stayed for 18 months until being bought by another supporter, Simon Jordan, whose own regime ended in similar fashion last year. Goldberg was declared bankrupt and barred from being a company director for 14 years.

"If you decide to go into a casino and play poker at the table with the top poker players and you lose, you have to be prepared to deal with losing," he said. "I went and played on the top table with the likes of Ron Noades and I wasn't ready for it. I don't blame anybody. I only blame myself." He added: "Ron's actually delightful. He gives me honorary membership at all his golf clubs. I said, 'Ron, thank you so much. That cost me £22.8m'."

Rebuilding a business career hasnot been easy, but Goldberg is irrepressible. "Over the last 10 years I've been putting together deals for companies where I take a smallshareholding or get a fee. I would go months without an income and then I would suddenly earn a couple of hundred grand – decent, but not a steady income. So I decided it was time to set up another recruitment business."

Last year Goldberg helped form Contractjobs.com, where work-seekers post CVs and contractors offer work across a range of industries. "We're growing at a rate of approximately 20,000 CVs a month," said Goldberg.

Apart from his children (Bradley, 18, is at Charlton's academy while 21-year-old Lauren Rose is a singer-songwriter), football is the major passion in his life. Having gone from being Palace's chairman to manager of the Under-9s team in which his son played, he spends three evenings a week with his coaches and players at Bromley. "What I want to do at the moment is to take Bromley as high as I can and prove that I can manage," he said. "Then if I get a track record through Bromley, who knows? Maybe there will be a position for me. At 48 I'm actually not that old as a football manager."

When he has time, Goldberg still visits Selhurst Park. "Palace fans notice me, but they're always very pleasant," he said. "They seem to remember the good times rather than the bad – like the fact that Attilio Lombardo played for Palace when I was there.

''They're also pleased to see that I'm a genuine Palace supporter, which some people used to question."

Investors' chronicle: Owners who dug deep

Dave Whelan bought Wigan in 1995 when in lowest tier, took them into Premier League in 2005. Spent £30m on construction of stadium.

Theo Paphitis bought Millwall in 1997 and sold it in 2006. Took the club out of administration. Reached FA Cup final and Europe.

Simon Jordan bought Crystal Palace in 2000. Purchased freehold to Selhurst Park. Took club into administration in 2010.

Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 for £140m. £442m on transfers. Won three League titles but lost Champions' League final in 2008.

Glazers bought Manchester United in 2005 for combined £800m. Won four League titles and Champions' League. Protests led to breakaway FC United.

Randy Lerner bought Aston Villa in 2006 for £62.6m. Spent a lot in his first few seasons. Won nothing.

George Gillett and Tom Hicks bought Liverpool in 2007 for £218.9m. Ordered to sell in 2010 for £300m. £159.3m on transfers. Won nothing.

Abu Dhabi United Group bought Manchester City in 2008 for reported £200m. £394.25m on transfers so far. Won FA Cup last year.

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