David Sullivan (businessman)

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David Sullivan
David Sullivan gives Hammers sign.jpg
Sullivan giving the "Hammers sign", Broadhall Way, Stevenage, July 2014
Born (1949-02-05) 5 February 1949 (age 72)
Years active1970–present
Known forDaily Sport
Sunday Sport
TitleJoint chairman of West Ham United (2010–present)

David Sullivan (born 5 February 1949)[1] is a Welsh businessman and former pornographer. He graduated in Economics from Queen Mary College, University of London. From 1986 to 2007, he owned the Daily Sport and Sunday Sport, which he sold for £40 million.[2]

According to The Sunday Times Rich List in 2019, Sullivan is worth £1.2 billion.[3]

He is the joint-chairman and largest single shareholder of Premier League football team West Ham United F.C. He was previously joint-chairman of Birmingham City.

Early life[edit]

Born in Cardiff, the son of an RAF serviceman, Sullivan grew up living in a Penarth council house. When Sullivan was 10 years old, his father was posted to Aden, Yemen where they lived for a year before moving to England to live in Hornchurch, Essex. He attended the Abbs Cross school and gained ten O Levels. After his family moved to Hertfordshire he attended Watford Grammar School for Boys obtaining three A levels. He read Economics at Queen Mary College, narrowly missing a first.[4]

Pornography industry[edit]

With his business partner, David Gold, Sullivan's first venture was selling softcore pornographic photos. They expanded into sex shops, adult magazines and several low-budget blue movies, making Sullivan a millionaire by the age of 25.[4] By the late 1970s, he was in control of half of the UK adult magazine market, including major titles such as Playbirds and Whitehouse,[5] 80% of the adult mail order market, and 150 shops.

In the late 1970s, he produced several low-budget British sex movies including Come Play with Me (1977) (directed by Harrison Marks). This was followed by The Playbirds (1978), Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair (1979) and Queen of the Blues (1979), all starring his then-girlfriend Mary Millington. After Millington's suicide in August 1979, he continued with Mary Millington's True Blue Confessions (1980) and Emmanuelle in Soho (1981).

In 1982, Sullivan was convicted of living off immoral earnings of prostitutes. He successfully appealed and was released after serving 71 days in prison.[6] Sullivan said that he did not feel embarrassed about the initial source of his early fortunes. "I've made a lot of people happy," he said. "If I was an arms manufacturer or a cigarette manufacturer, and my products killed millions of my clients, I'd have a bit of doubt about the whole thing. I was a freedom fighter. I believe in the right of adults to make their own decisions."[citation needed]


Sullivan operates an investment company, Conegate, which owns property in London including Russell & Bromley's flagship shopbuildings in Oxford Street near to Bond Street tube station.[7]


Birmingham City[edit]

In 1993, Sullivan bought into Birmingham City, with David Gold and Ralph Gold. The landmark deal saw the new owners secure an 80% stake of the Midlands outfit.

In 2007, Sullivan expressed his first desire to sell his share in Birmingham City and openly admitted three reasons for a possible departure.[8] "One, the geographical distance. I've said for years the journey to Birmingham is killing me. Two, I think deep down the public have had enough of us. They think we should have mortgaged our houses to buy more players to compete with Chelsea and Arsenal. The honeymoon is long over and we're at the divorce stage now, unfortunately. And I also feel we've had no support from Birmingham Council."

After 16 years at the club, Birmingham managing director Karren Brady and chairman David Sullivan agreed to step down from their posts on completion of Carson Yeung's takeover in Autumn 2009.[9] The Birmingham manager at the time, Alex McLeish, praised the Sullivan-Gold duo in the media for providing the club with financial stability, stating he respected them a lot for what they had achieved.[10]

West Ham United[edit]

On Sullivan's departure from Birmingham, he expressed his intentions to remain in football. Less than one year later in January 2010, he and David Gold acquired a 50% share in West Ham United giving them operational and commercial control and valuing the Premier League club at £105 million. Karren Brady, who had also played a significant role in turning around City's fortunes, joined the Hammers as vice-chairman.

On the day the takeover was confirmed, an emotional Sullivan said: "It's going to take time to sink in. We've been wanting to sit here for 20 years and together we owned 27 per cent of the club 22 years ago and it's taken us 22 years to get to where want to be. Both me and David are supporters, I went to university here and I lived in Hornchurch. David lived 50 yards from the ground for 20 years of his life and played for West Ham's youth team. We just want to be here where we've always wanted to be. There is no other club we would want to be at so for us we have come home and that's what it's all about."[11]

Within five months the Sullivan and Gold duo pledged a further commitment to the club and on 25 May 2010 they increased their stake to 60% (Sullivan with 30%). Vice-chairman Karren Brady later explained the move gave the football club "the much-needed stability."[12]

In September 2012, Sullivan revealed that together with Gold they were personally funding the club's transfer business.[13]

As part of his long-term aspirations for the club Sullivan backed West Ham's bid to move into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.[14] On 22 March 2013, West Ham secured a 99-year lease deal, with the stadium planned to be used as their home ground from the 2016–2017 season.[15] In July 2013, Sullivan became the largest single shareholder of West Ham United acquiring a further 25% of shares in the club.[16] In March 2018, there were protests against Sullivan at the London Stadium during a 3–0 home defeat to Burnley. There were four pitch invasions and Sullivan was escorted from his seat before the end of the match.[17] Sullivan was also hit by a coin thrown by one of the supporters.[18]

On 26 March 2018, an HMRC tax tribunal ruled that Sullivan had used West Ham United to avoid paying £700,000 tax for his own family business, Conegate Ltd. Sullivan used Conegate to buy £2m of shares in the holding company that owns West Ham. The same day the shares were converted to "deferred shares", deemed practically worthless and sold back for £1 back to the holding company. Conegate thereby used the £2m loss to reduce its tax bill.[19]


Hornchurch's season in the Isthmian League Premier Division was suspended in November 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and they were unable to play any league football. During this time they were financially supported by Sullivan who once lived in Hornchurch.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Sullivan lives in Birch Hall, near Theydon Bois, Essex. It was built by Ashby and Horner to Sullivan's design in 1992 and set in around 12 acres (49,000 m2) of land, at a cost of £7.5m for the land and building. This is in addition to a commercial property empire worth an estimated £500m. His girlfriend is Ampika Pickston, star of The Real Housewives of Cheshire.[21]Sullivan has two children, David and Jack with ex-girlfriend Emma Benton-Hughes.[4]

Sullivan is a philanthropist and has been a patron of Prostate Cancer UK for over 15 years. He is also an active supporter of the Teenage Cancer Trust along with several other charities nationwide. Sullivan celebrated West Ham's promotion to the Premier League in May 2012 by donating a five figure sum to a charity for children with autism.[22] In October 2020, Sullivan donated £25,000 to help combat child food poverty. His donation was given to FareShare who contribute to the Child Food Poverty Taskforce, founded by Marcus Rashford.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Famous Birthdays on February 5". On This Day. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  2. ^ Stephen Brook, press correspondent It is reported that he bought back the titles from the Administrators for £50,000 in May 2011 and the paper resumed publication. (8 August 2007). "Sullivan sells stake in Sport titles". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 April 2010.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Times, The Sunday (12 May 2019). "Rich List 2019: profiles 101–148=, featuring Alan Sugar". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "David Sullivan — living a dream in Theydon Bois, Essex | Essex Life". Essex.greatbritishlife.co.uk. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
  5. ^ Hoyle, Ben (2004). "David Sullivan". The Times. London. Retrieved 9 April 2008.
  6. ^ "The big interview: David Sullivan — The freedom fighter". Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  7. ^ "West Ham co-owner David Sullivan looking to sell prime Oxford Street building". London Evening Standard. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  8. ^ James, Stuart (27 September 2007). "Sullivan's passion undimmed by his likely departure". The Guardian. London.
  9. ^ "Carson Yeung". The Guardian. London. 16 September 2009.
  10. ^ "McLeish praise for former owners". Fox Sports. 4 November 2010.
  11. ^ "We've Come Home". Archived from the original on 12 September 2012.
  12. ^ "West Ham co-owners Sullivan and Gold increase stake". David Gold. 26 May 2010. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  13. ^ "Sullivan funded Carroll deal". Archived from the original on 30 June 2013.
  14. ^ Gibson, Owen (19 January 2010). "David Sullivan hopes to boost West Ham with move to Olympic Stadium". The Guardian. London.
  15. ^ "Olympic Stadium: Barry Hearn calls for judicial review". BBC Sport. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  16. ^ Wheway, Ben (2 July 2013). "DLA Piper advises David Sullivan on further investment in West Ham". dlapiper.com. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Fans approach players during West Ham's defeat by Burnley at London Stadium". BBC Sport. 10 March 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2018.
  18. ^ "West Ham fans to vote on whether to hold protest march against owners". BBC Sport. 12 March 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  19. ^ "David Sullivan: West Ham co-owner 'used club to avoid paying £700,000 tax'". BBC Sport. 26 March 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  20. ^ "West Ham United congratulate Wembley-bound Hornchurch FC". West Ham United FC. 27 March 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  21. ^ Fitzpatrick, Katie (12 September 2021). "Real Housewives star Ampika Pickston to marry West Ham owner David Sullivan". Manchester Evening News.
  22. ^ "Autism Charity Nets Win". Archived from the original on 8 June 2012.
  23. ^ "Joint-Chairman David Sullivan makes £25k donation to help combat child food poverty". West Ham United. 26 October 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.


  • Simon Sheridan Keeping the British End Up: Four Decades of Saucy Cinema 2011 (fourth edition) (Titan books)
  • Simon Sheridan Come Play with Me: The Life and Films of Mary Millington 1999 (FAB Press, Guildford)
  • Mark Killick The Sultan of Sleaze 1994 (Penguin UK)

External links[edit]