Jack Walker

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For other people named Jack Walker, see Jack Walker (disambiguation).
Jack Walker
Jack Walker Memorial, Ewood Park, Blackburn.jpg
Jack Walker Statue outside Ewood Park
Born (1929-05-19)19 May 1929[1]
Blackburn, Lancashire, England
Died 17 August 2000(2000-08-17) (aged 71)
St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands
Nationality British
Ethnicity White British
Occupation Businessman
Industrialist
Years active 1942–2000
Net worth Increase £600 million
(US$927 million) (est.)
Title Founder and chairman of Flybe
(1979–2000)
Chairman of Blackburn Rovers F.C.
(1991–2000)

Jack Walker (19 May 1929 – 17 August 2000) was a British industrialist and businessman, from Blackburn, Lancashire. Walker invested tens of millions of pounds in Blackburn Rovers Football Club after amassing a personal fortune of £600 million. He moved to St Helier, Jersey to become a tax exile in 1974. He also funded the Jersey Rugby Club and First Tower Football Club[2]

Business[edit]

Walkersteel[edit]

The youngest of three children, he was born into a working-class family in Blackburn and left school at 13.[3] After leaving school Walker worked as a sheet metal worker and a conscript craftsman in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers before taking over the family business with his brother, Fred Walker after the death of their father in 1951.[4] Together, they transformed Walkersteel from a back-street scrap metal business started by their father after the war into a steel stockholding concern. By 1990 they had built up the business so successfully that it had become the largest steel stockholder in Britain, employing 3,400 people at 50 sites. In 1956 the turnover was £46,000. In 1988 the business was making an annual profit of £48m. The Walker brothers bought GKN and then sold it to British Steel for a reported £360m, the highest price ever paid for a private company at the time.[5]

Jersey European Airways[edit]

In November 1983 the WalkerSteel group took over Jersey European Airways, already being the parent company to Blackpool based airline Spacegrand. The two airlines were initially run separately until 1985 when they were amalgamated and Exeter became the airline's headquarters and base for technical services.[6]

The airline grew throughout the 1990s and was recognised in 1993 and 1994 when it won 'Best UK Regional Airline'. The new millennium saw the airline announce a new brand name at the beginning of May: British European. The rebrand reflected the size and scope of what was now the UK’s third-largest scheduled airline. July 2002 saw the start of a new beginning for the airline, British European was forced to dramatically change its business model to survive in such a highly competitive and aggressive new low cost travel era. Flybe was born and along with changes to commercial, fleet and operational policies that were to transform the airline.

The Walker Trust own 69% of the company with the remaining shares owned by British Airways (15%) and staff through an employee share scheme. At the airlines Head Office in Exeter there are two buildings named in his honour: Jack Walker House and the New Walker Hangar both based on the Exeter International Airport complex.

Blackburn Rovers[edit]

In 1986, at the invitation of the then chairman Bill Fox, Jack Walker, then a vice president at the club, donated the funds for a new stand at the dilapidated Ewood Park. The WalkerSteel (now known as the Riverside) Stand was built.[7] It is also thought that his money was used to pay for the acquisition and wages of Ossie Ardiles and Steve Archibald in the 1987-88 season.[5]

He took full control of the club in January 1991, having backed the club on a regular basis for five years previously, and within the first three years he spent £25 million on new players, twice breaking the British record for the most expensive transfer of a football player, signing Alan Shearer from Southampton for £3.3million in 1992 and Chris Sutton from Norwich for £5million in 1994.

In the early stages of his ownership of Blackburn, he also tried to bring England internationals Geoff Thomas and Gary Lineker to the club, but bids for both players failed.

The Ewood Park ground was reconstructed at a cost of more than £20 million to give it a capacity of just over 30,000, with a new Jack Walker Stand providing a lasting tribute.

When he bought Blackburn, the 1990-91 season was half completed and they were just above the relegation zone. Manager Don Mackay initially used Walker's funds to make signings which helped ensure Blackburn's survival that season, and built the platform for a promotion challenge in 1991-92. Walker declared his ambition early on that Blackburn would return to the top flight, establish themselves as a top side in England and eventually go on to compete with the very best clubs in Europe. At this time, the ones likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United were generally regarded as the nation's top clubs, while the European scene (with English clubs having only recently been re-admitted following a five-year ban as a result of the Heysel disaster) was being dominated by AC Milan, Inter Milan, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.[8]

Kenny Dalglish became manager in October 1991, and by May, Blackburn had been promoted to the newly formed Premier League through the play offs.[9] In the 1994-95 season, Blackburn Rovers won the Premiership title. In 1995, Blackburn Rovers manager Kenny Dalglish had expressed interest in signing both Zinedine Zidane and Christophe Dugarry, to which Walker reportedly replied, "Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?"[10]

Although Blackburn qualified for Europe on three occasions during his ownership of the club, they failed to make the same impact in the UEFA Cup or European Cup that they had done in the Premier League.[11]

Away from Blackburn Rovers, Walker also invested his money in property development in and around the town of Blackburn. He also sponsored First Tower United, a Jersey based football club. His sale of Walkersteel had proven to be a less successful investment for its new owners, as the steel market entered a steep slump as a result of the Early 1990s recession.[12]

Death[edit]

On 17 August 2000, Walker died from cancer aged 71. Jack Straw, the Home Secretary and Blackburn's Labour MP, said:

"Jack Walker did more than any other individual in the last century to enhance the self-confidence and the prosperity of his home town. He was completely committed to the town and its people. Blackburn Rovers was in many ways the love of his life. His contribution to the club was enormous but that was based in turn on the prosperity he created through his astonishing development of Walker Steel and of many other investments in the area. I salute a great local hero and shall miss him very badly."

Before his death, Walker had put in place a family trust structure to own his various business interests, including the club.

In November 2004 the Jack Walker Memorial garden was unveiled at the Blackburn End of Ewood Park. Standing in the middle is the Jack Walker Memorial Statue.[13] A road close to Ewood Park was named "Jack Walker Way" in his honour. The Jack Walker Stand at Blackburn rovers is the old Nuttall Street Stand and not as stated the Riverside Stand.


References[edit]

  1. ^ Researcha
  2. ^ Glanville, Brian (2000-08-19). "Jack Walker". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  3. ^ Savill, Richard (2000-08-19). "Local hero who led the Rovers to glory". London: telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  4. ^ "Blackburn Rovers owner dies". BBC. 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  5. ^ a b Fox, Norman (1992-08-16). "Profile: Money, money, money man - Jack Walker". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  6. ^ "Flybe Flights". directline-flights.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  7. ^ "Jack of the Rovers". BBC. 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  8. ^ Fox, Norman (1992-08-16). "Profile: Money, money, money man - Jack Walker". The Independent (London). 
  9. ^ "Kenny Dalglish at Blackburn". London: The Independent. 1996-08-23. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  10. ^ The Ones That Got Away...Zidane – VitalFootball.co.uk, 2006
  11. ^ Fox, Norman (1992-08-16). "Profile: Money, money, money man - Jack Walker". The Independent (London). 
  12. ^ "Jack Walker". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2000-08-19. 
  13. ^ "JACK WALKER STATUE UNVEILED". Blackburn Rovers Official Website. 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2010-01-26.