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. Edwards was from Salford and educated at a Catholic Grammar School but he left at the age of 14 to work in the family business, which was meat packaging and processing. He was a Manchester United fan from childhood.
Edwards's father, also called Louis Charles, died on 13 February 1943 at the age of 67. He left Louis 77 shares and his younger brother Douglas, 75. 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 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.
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.
Meat contracts corruption and malpractice
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.
The Granada investigation also claimed that his company supplied condemned meat that was unfit for human consumption to be used in school dinners.
The programme 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.
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.
Louis Edwards suffered a heart attack and died whilst in the bath on the evening of 25 February 1980. The FA decided against a formal investigation and merely discussed the issue. The case was dropped.
- Bandini, Paolo (1 May 2007). "Character no concern in the pursuit of glory". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 5 January 2015.
- 22 Feb 2008
- Edgar, Bill (9 October 2007). "The top 50 Manchester United moments". The Times (London). Retrieved 11 May 2010.
|Manchester United F.C. chairman