Louis Edwards

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Louis Charles Edwards (15 June 1914 – 25 February 1980) from Salford, Lancashire, was an English businessman who was most notable for being chairman of Manchester United from June 1965 until his death in February 1980.

Biography[edit]

He was educated at a Catholic Grammar School but he left at the age of 14 to work in the family business, which was wholesale, retail, meat packaging and processing. He was a Manchester United fan from childhood.

After World War Two was declared he joined the Hussars and was based in India, Africa and as a desert rat in Egypt. He was demobilized from the army after the death of his father on 13 February 1943. He left Louis 77 shares and his younger brother Douglas, 75. As a result, Louis took over the running of the business. On 7 June 1944 Edwards married Muriel Bullen. They had two sons and a daughter.

The business rapidly expanded in the 1950s, and in 1961 Edwards's company had contracts worth £393,000 a year and provided meat for 300,000[dubious ] schools. The following year it was floated on the stock exchange. In the mid 1960s it employed 1,300 people, had eighty retail outlets and had contracts with Woolworths and authorities in Salford, Manchester and other parts of Lancashire.

Manchester United[edit]

Edwards first met Matt Busby in 1950, as they were introduced by a mutual friend. From the mid 1950s he was an investor in Manchester United and joined the club's board of directors the day after the Munich Air crash in February 1958 and bought ten shares worth £1 each. He became vice-chairman in December 1964 and club chairman in June 1965 upon the death of Harold Hardman, overseeing United's success in winning the Football League First Division in 1967, finishing runners up in 1968, and the European Cup on 29 May that year. By the early 1970s Edwards was the majority shareholder at the club. The upgrade and development of Old Trafford occurred under his chairmanship, including a new cantilever stand, ringed by theatre style executive boxes. Other stands and restaurants were added, with relatively modern training facilities.

Edwards later stood down from the Football league management committee to make way for Busby.

On 5 February 1979 he sold his business to Argyll Foods and retired from it, devoting his full-time commitments towards Manchester United.

Controversies[edit]

Meat contracts corruption and malpractice[edit]

As an investigation by the Granada Television/ITV investigative journalism series World in Action, broadcast on the ITV network on 28 January 1980, alleged that such dominance had in fact been achieved through bribing school officials in order to win lucrative contracts in cities such as Manchester.[1]

The Granada investigation also claimed that his company supplied condemned meat that was unfit for human consumption to be used in school dinners.[2]

Compilation of the programme began in February 1979 and it alleged illegal share deals involving large cash payments and false documentation. The investigation also claimed how Manchester United had a secret fund for bribing parents of young players the club wished to recruit. In one case in the early 1960s it was alleged that a bribe of £5,000 was paid to the parents of Peter Lorimer, a promising young player whom the club had wanted to recruit. The bung was in fact later returned when the player chose Leeds United instead though this was a clear breach of football association rules. There were allegations that such behaviour occurred in the 1970s.[3]

On 29 January Edwards said "My conscience is clear. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am proud to be chairman of this great club and I have only wanted the very best for it".

On 12 February, Manchester Police said they were going to investigate the allegations made against both Louis Edwards and Manchester United. Edwards himself hired a firm of lawyers to go through his business transactions and private papers in order to build evidence against all the charges levelled at him.

Death[edit]

Louis Edwards suffered a heart attack and died whilst in the bath on the evening of 25 February 1980.[4] The FA decided against a formal investigation and merely discussed the issue. The case was dropped.[5]

References[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Harold Hardman
Manchester United F.C. chairman
1965–1980
Succeeded by
Martin Edwards