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David Murray (Scottish businessman)

Sir David Edward Murray (born in 14 October 1951, in Ayr, Scotland) is a Scottish entrepreneur, businessman and Chairman of Rangers Football Club.

Business life

Murray was educated at Ayr Academy. By the age of 23 Murray had formed Murray International Metals Limited, which was to become a leading distributor of structural steel. Subsequently, the Murray Group of companies grew to become one of the United Kingdom’s most successful privately-owned enterprises. Added to the core business of steel were interests in surface mining (GM Mining), commercial property development (Premier Property Group), venture capital (Charlotte Ventures) and call centres (RHL, trading as 'RESPONSE' from February 2007 onwards, formerly Response Handling Limited). In 2006, the Murray group collectively reported turnover of £550 million, representing a fivefold increase on the figure five years previously, largely as a result of growing involvement in property development. Corporate success was also reflected in Murray's personal wealth, estimated in the Sunday Times Rich List 2008 at £720 million, making him the 113th wealthiest person in Britain. In 2007, Murray was said to be the seventh richest Scot.

Alongside his high-profile business activities, other Murray interests have helped cement his prominence in Scottish life. In 1991, Murray established the Sunday Scot, a tabloid newspaper which ceased publication after only 14 weeks.

Murray has also provided occasional contributions to Scottish politics. In the lead-up to the 1999 referendum on the establishment of a Scottish Parliament, Murray endorsed the 'no' campaign, reflecting a long-held support for Unionism and opposition to the devolution of power from London. In the lead-up to elections to the Scottish Parliament in 2007, Murray reiterated his Unionist sentiments as one of 150 business signatories to a newspaper advertisement proclaiming that "the break up of Britain would damage Scotland"

David Murray's recognised through a number of awards over the course of his career. In 1984, at the age of 33, he was awarded Young Scottish Businessman of the Year. In 1986 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University. Murray was knighted in the New Year Honours 2007 List

Football life

Acquiring Rangers

Murray’s involvement in football has overshadowed his business and personal lives and explains much of his prominence within Scottish society. In the 1980s Murray made a bid for Ayr United which was rejected 56:60 by the shareholders of the club. This setback saw Murray focus attention on acquiring Rangers, a club which, following the appointment of Graeme Souness as manager in 1986, had regained its ascendancy in Scottish football and, through the purchase of a number of British internationals, enhanced its standing within British football more generally. Attracted by the idea of owning what at the time was one of Scotland's highest-profile football clubs, on 23 November, 1988 Murray secured the purchase of Rangers from the club's then owner, the Nevada based Lawrence Marlborough, for a sum of £6 million.

Throughout what was later to transpire as his first period of chairmanship, Murray continued and extended the ambitious strategy he had inherited from David Holmes. His investment saw further development to Ibrox Stadium, which had already undergone extensive remodelling in the aftermath of the Ibrox disaster of January 2, 1971, which claimed the lives of 66 fans following an Old Firm derby with Celtic. Murray oversaw the construction of a third tier on the existing Main Stand, raising the ground's capacity by 7,300. Accompanying this were changes on the pitch. 1989 saw Rangers secure a first trophy under Murray's chairmanship, the first of what was to become nine successive Scottish League Championships over the period 1989-1997. This period was to be significant for more reasons than footballing success. In 1989 Murray and manager Graeme Souness signed Mo Johnston, the first high-profile Catholic to play for the club since the Second World War, from French club Nantes for £1.5 million. As Johnston had previously played for (and had recently committed to re-join) Celtic, this transfer was highly controversial. Other high profile players were to follow in later years, including Paul Gascoigne, Brian Laudrup, Ronald de Boer and Tore André Flo.

Period of success

Following Graeme Souness’ departure to Liverpool in April 1991, Murray appointed his former assistant Walter Smith as manager. Under Smith, and his eventual replacement in 1998 by Dick Advocaat, Rangers embarked upon a sustained period of success that saw the club win 11 Scottish championships over 14 years. Regrettably for Murray, who asked that he be 'judged on Europe', this domination was not accompanied by success in European competition. Aside from the 1992-93 UEFA Champions League campaign, in which Rangers twice came within one victory of reaching the final, the club's record in Europe from 1989 was one of consistent frustration and under-performance, interrupted only by sporadic victories against top European sides. However, in 2005-06 Rangers secured qualification from the group stage of the Champions League, becoming the first Scottish side to reach the financially rewarding last-sixteen knockout stage of the competition. In 2007-08, Rangers reached the final of the UEFA Cup but lost 2-0 to FC Zenit at the City of manchester stadium. Rangers went on, however, to win the Double, of the Scottish League Cup, and the Scottish Cup

In 2001-02, Murray abandoned his previous insistence that Rangers would never leave Scottish football, arguing in support of a move by the Old Firm to the better-resourced English leagues, and ultimately the Premiership. This, Murray and others argued, would provide substantially increased income from growing television revenues, and with it the potential for the club to operate in a more competitive environment which could help boost performance in European competitions.

Finances

Reflecting the success Rangers experienced on the playing field, Murray's first period as chairman saw him benefit from the kind of support, from fans of the club and from the media, relatively uncommon for football club owners in Britain. However, in a quest to fulfil Murray's ambitions for Rangers in Europe, a period of unprecedented spending under the managership of Dick Advocaat saw the club's debts spiral, as anticipated television revenues failed to materialise and the club's income failed to offset the growing cost of transfer fees and player salaries. The result was that, for the first time, Murray's effectiveness as the club's chairman and owner began to be questioned. By 2001, with the appointment of Alex McLeish as manager, Rangers' indebtedness had reached a level that, to some observers, potentially jeopardised the club's solvency. Murray acknowledged that mistakes were made, saying "we got it wrong. We obviously spent far too much money. We can’t let it happen again because that would be total mismanagement." A radical programme of cost-cutting was instituted in an attempt to re-establish the club on a stable financial footing.

In July 2002, Murray relinquished the chairmanship and limited his day-to-day involvement in its running. His status as by far the club's biggest share-holder remained, however, and Murray was said by some to continue to exercise a significant behind-the-scenes role in the management of Rangers. In September 2004, Murray announced his return to the chairmanship, and with it a rights-issue to raise the funds with which to reduce - and ultimately eliminate - the club's debt. In doing so, Murray also saw his shareholding in the club increase to around 90% of the total stock.

Rangers' comparative lack of success after 2001 was attributed by some critics to excessive caution in Murray's stewardship of the club. To the critics, league championship successes in 2003 and 2005 came in spite of an overall strategy geared towards reducing the club's indebtedness. Murray responded in 2006 with the coup of securing as manager Paul Le Guen, the former coach of Olympique Lyonnais, whose talents were said to be coveted by a number of high profile clubs. Murray described Le Guen's capture as "a massive moonbeam of success" for the club.

The capture of Le Guen was seen by some as a return by Murray to the boldness of his earlier approach, and perhaps a rejection of the 'living within our means' conservatism of the period after 2001. Murray himself noted, "we’ve got big plans." However, Le Guen's tenure at Rangers - by far the shortest of any of the club's managers - ended with his resignation in January 2007. Some ascribed blame for Le Guen's failure to Murray's apparent reluctance to sanction appropriate transfer spending for what was widely agreed to be an inadequate squad of players.

Moving on

By 2006, there was a growing consensus that Murray's enthusiasm for Rangers had waned. For some, fiscal conservatism was the result not of unavoidable prudence in the club's management after the excesses of the Advocaat era, but of a desire by Murray to limit debt and increase Rangers' attractiveness to potential buyers Murray himself continued to articulate a more ambiguous stance on his desire to sell or retain ownwership of the club: "It's not a 'For Sale' sign per se, but obviously I don't want to do this forever"

Personal life

Murray's achievements in business have come in spite of the personal tragedy of the loss of both legs in 1976, following a serious car crash after a Rugby match. Murray became a longstanding supporter of amputees, reflected in his establishment of the Murray Foundation in 1996. Further personal tragedy followed with the death of Murray's wife Louise in 1992 due to cancer.

On 3 May, 2000, Murray's Learjet crashed while being leased by Formula One driver and friend David Coulthard. The Learjet developed engine trouble while on route to Côte d'Azur International Airport in Nice, and crashed while attempting an emergency landing at Lyon-Satolas airport, France. Coulthard, his then girlfriend the Canadian model Heidi Wichlinski and personal trainer/bodyguard Andy Matthews survived; whilst Murray's personal pilot David Saunders and co-pilot Dan Worley were killed.

After being named on the New Year's honours list, Murray received his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth on July 4, 2007 at a ceremony at Holyrood Palace.

At one stage Murray owned 10% of Manchester United, but sold his shares to Irish businessmen JP McManus and John Magnier in 2003.

References

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