Doug Ellis

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Doug Ellis

Doug Ellis, 2014 (cropped).jpg
Doug Ellis, in 2014.
Chairman of Aston Villa F.C.
In office
Preceded byRon Bendall
Succeeded byRandy Lerner
In office
Preceded byNorman Smith
Succeeded byWilliam Dugdale
Personal details
Herbert Douglas Ellis

(1924-01-03)3 January 1924
Hooton, England
Died11 October 2018(2018-10-11) (aged 94)
Audrey Slater (m. 1946)
Heidi Marie Kroeger (m. 1963)
Children3 (one son with Slater, two sons with Kroeger)[1]
OccupationPresident Emeritus (Life President) of Aston Villa

Sir Herbert Douglas Ellis, OBE (3 January 1924 – 11 October 2018)[2] was an English entrepreneur. He was the chairman of Aston Villa Football Club from 1968 to 1975, and again from 1982 until 2006. Ellis was knighted in the 2012 New Year Honours List for charitable services.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Ellis was born on 3 January 1924 in Hooton, Cheshire.[2] When he was three years old, his father, also named Herbert, died. His mother Jane did not remarry but worked to support him and his younger sister, and paid his fares to attend secondary school in Chester.[4]

According to Ellis, he attended trials for a football career with Tranmere Rovers as a child, but chose to pursue his business career rather than football.[5] During World War II, he was based with the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and the experience of his first trip abroad inspired him to provide low-cost foreign holidays to people of a similar economic background.[2] Before he was 40, he had become a millionaire by pioneering package holidays to Spain,[6] with his company Sunflight.[4]

Ellis met his first wife Audrey Slater in Ceylon in 1946. They had a son together and later divorced.[4] He married his second wife Heidi Kroeger in 1963, with whom he had two sons. He met the German courier in Benidorm when she was working for a rival company and persuaded her to join his corporation.[4]

Aston Villa[edit]

Ellis was the chairman and major shareholder of Aston Villa for two separate spells, the first being from 1968 to 1975. Ellis was replaced as chairman and finally ousted from the board in 1979. During his absence Aston Villa enjoyed its greatest period of success in modern times, winning the Football League title in 1981 and the European Cup in 1982. After his return they were relegated to the Second Division but ultimately were promoted again and enjoyed success in the 1990s with two League Cup triumphs as well as finishing runners-up in the league on two occasions.[1]

Ellis returned as chairman in 1982 and remained there until selling to Randy Lerner in 2006. Some fans blame him for the decline of the club after the European Cup victory in 1981–82.[7] Within five years the club was relegated from the top flight, with many of the European Cup-winning team being sold to other teams, although it can be argued that this was due to large debts built up during the previous regime.[8]

Ellis was nicknamed "Deadly Doug" by football pundit Jimmy Greaves, after sacking numerous managers during his tenures as chairman.[6] Aston Villa had 13 different managers during his two spells.[9][10] Only two won any trophies for the team – Ron Atkinson and Brian Little with the Football League Cup in 1994 and 1996 respectively.[1]

In 1996, Ellis owned 47 percent of Aston Villa. In May 1997 the club floated on the stock market with a valuation of £126m.[11] Ellis sold a number of his shares at flotation, reducing his shareholding to around 39% of the total shares.[12]

Ellis was reported to be the first football club director to pay himself a salary (in 2005 it was £290,000 after a 12% increase from the previous year) when it was made legal by The Football Association in the early 1980s.[10] He also served on the boards of Birmingham City, Derby County and Wolverhampton Wanderers (as chairman).[13]

In 2004, at the age of 80 and suffering from prostate cancer, Ellis agreed to relinquish some of his control of the club by appointing Bruce Langham as chief executive. Langham resigned in May 2005, reportedly after a disagreement with Ellis. In 2005, he was appointed an OBE in the 2005 New Year Honours List.[14] Later that year he underwent a heart bypass operation and, after a three-month absence, returned to his role at Villa Park soon after the start of the 2005–06 season. By this time some supporters and former club managers criticised Ellis's alleged lack of ambition, noting that the club often struggled to bring in top players.[15][16]

On 14 August 2006, it was announced that Ellis had agreed to sell the club to American billionaire, Randy Lerner in a deal worth £62.6 million.[17] Ellis stood aside when the takeover was completed on 19 September 2006, becoming a President Emeritus (Life President) of the club.[18]

Honours and later life[edit]

In 1994, a stand at Villa Park was named after Ellis.[19] In January 2012 the Doug Ellis Learning Hub was opened at the University of Birmingham Medical School. Ellis donated £416,000 towards the feature.[20] In April 2013, the newly refurbished Sir Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre at Aston University opened, featuring a new sports hall and squash courts. This work was partly funded by Ellis.[21] Also in 2012, Ellis donated £10,000 to the building of a new school gymnasium at Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls. In his letter to the school, he wrote: "You clearly have a school to be proud of … and I wish you every success in achieving your goal".[22]

Ellis received an honorary degree from Aston University in July 2007.[23] On 4 March 2012, Ellis was knighted for his charity work.[24] He died on 11 October 2018, aged 94.[25]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Sir Doug Ellis: A man who split opinion but forever had Aston Villa in his heart". Express & Star. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Glanville, Brian (11 October 2018). "Sir Doug Ellis obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  3. ^ "No. 60009". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2011. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b c d Young, Graham (11 October 2018). "Tributes to legendary football club chairman who was born in Ellesmere Port". Cheshire Live. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  5. ^ Mihir Bose (15 August 2006). "Ellis loved being centre stage". Daily Telegraph.
  6. ^ a b "The Guardian profile: Doug Ellis". The Guardian. 21 July 2006.
  7. ^ Who is the Villain of the piece? - BBC Sport News, 18 July 2006
  8. ^ Pye, Steven (31 December 2015). "Remembering the last time Aston Villa were relegated". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Aston Villa Manager History". Soccerbase. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b Culf, Andrew (21 July 2006). "The Guardian profile: Doug Ellis". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  11. ^ David Lacey (15 August 2006). "Ellis, relic of a vanishing breed, finally gets on his bike". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "An interview with Sir Doug Ellis - the price he paid for his devotion to Villa". Birmingham Mail. 1 October 2018.
  13. ^ Rodger, James (11 October 2018). "Birmingham City fans put rivalry aside to pay classy tributes to Sir Doug Ellis". The Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  14. ^ "Ellis awarded New Year accolade". BBC News. 31 December 2004. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
  15. ^ Villa squad attack Ellis for lack of ambition Archived 16 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine - The Independent, 15 July 2006
  16. ^ O'Leary departure no surprise - The Express and Star, 20 July 2006
  17. ^ "Randy Lerner agrees £65m sale of Aston Villa to Chinese businessman Dr Tony Xia". Daily Telegraph. 18 May 2016.
  18. ^ "RIP Sir Doug Ellis". Aston Villa F.C. 11 October 2018.
  19. ^ "Sir Doug Ellis: Former Aston Villa chairman dies aged 94". BBC Sport. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Medical School Refurbishment". University of Birmingham. September 2010.
  21. ^ "New University sports centre honours former Villa Chairman". Aston University. 4 October 2011.
  22. ^ "SCGSG Newsletter" (PDF). Sutton Coldfield School for Girls. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  23. ^ "50 Aston Greats: Sir Doug Ellis". Aston University.
  24. ^ "Ex-Villa chairman Doug Ellis knighted in New Year Honours". BBC News. 31 December 2011.
  25. ^ Kendrick, Mat (11 October 2018). "Former Aston Villa owner Sir Doug Ellis dies aged 94 - tributes pour in". Retrieved 11 October 2018.