Karren Brady's bosses at publishers Sport Newspapers, the Gold brothers and David Sullivan, plucked her from the role of director to head up their favourite football club, Birmingham City. She promptly brought glory days and financial stability to St. Andrew's. Back in 1993 however Brady was he first woman run a football club. She then eclipsed her very public introduction to perhaps the most masculine of industries (she was refused entry to the Notts County board room) by becoming the youngest woman to run an AIM-listed company in 1997. And her success in turning the club from the brink of extinction to a £30m turnover Premiership team playing to sell-out crowds marks her as business figure of national repute. And she's still only 33.
When I started I was something of a novelty. I was young and it made quite a story. But that was nine and a half, nearly 10 years ago. Now it is not an issue. There are lots of women involved in football and there'slots of people who own football clubs and Plcs who have women executives.
Sport Newspapers was a one-day a week operation, which was turned into a seven-day a week operation and I set up the sales and advertising and marketing for that. During the peak when I was marketing it the circulation was 21m, which it hasn't seen since. Most of my colleagues, those that I work with, know what I'm talking about and I sit on other boards. As well as that I go round doing business talks telling how Birmingham has gone from a company in liquidation and flagging in the football league to the Premiership, with a turnover in excess of £30m. It's quite a good story really. But the main success is continuing what we've done and running at profit.
Well I don't really have much of a media profile. I haven't done any interviews for quite a few years because it detracts from what the team's doing. I obviously did it in the early days because it was important to get the profile across. But now I let the team do the talking for the club. But I do talk about business generally and running a business and having good management practices. I've done other things that are media friendly, but there's nothing wrong with that.
We had a turnover of about £1m. We were haemorrhaging money. We had an almost all-standing ground. And a team that lacked ambition on and off the pitch. So it involved a complete turnaround from the start, profile, marketing. We self-generated the income to rebuild St. Andrews into the stadium it is today, 30,000 seats and 64 executive boxes, which is more than Liverpool and Everton put together. In terms of raising profile, marketing and raising the gate I think the average gate when I took over was about 6,000, but now we regularly sell-out 30,000. But I think perhaps the biggest challenge was taking over in 1993 and then I in 1997 I floated the company on AIM. At the time it was valued at £25m, but more significantly we raised £7.5m worth of new money, which enabled us to continue to re-build the stadium and team. Also, we made a decision to float in the middle of December and were on the market by early March, which is fairly quick.
We have a mix of wealthy individuals, institutions and supporters who have shares in the club. Our AGMs are always very pleasant and calm. I think that the supporters care passionately about the club and want to know what money you're going to spend. Institutions want to know what money you're going to generate and major shareholders want to know how much you've made. So each has a different role to play. Football is also quite unique. A Birmingham City supporter is not going to wake up tomorrow and support Aston Villa. So in that sense you have a very captive audience and a unique customer. But what they do do is say they support, but don't qualify that by spending any money. So they don't buy tickets, they don't buy a shirt, don't buy a lottery ticket and don't buy a pie. So it's our job to resurrect that support and qualify it in terms of cash. And for a club like Birmingham we've done that very well.