|Born||Matthew Charles Harding|
26 December 1953
Haywards Heath, Sussex, England
|Died||22 October 1996 (aged 42)|
Middlewich, Cheshire, England
Early years and education
Harding was born in Haywards Heath, Sussex, the son of Paul Harding, an insurance executive. He attended Abingdon School in Abingdon-on-Thames from 1964 until 1971. He was a member of the badminton first team, for which he was awarded half-colours, in addition to being a cricket first XI player, captain of the colts cricket team and a member of the hockey second XI. Although he enjoyed the sport, he did not enjoy the school ethos, earning a single 'A' Level in Latin. He did, however, return to the school just weeks before his death to speak to a small group of sixth formers about his road to success.
He left school and went to London. Through his father's friendship with Ted Benfield, he joined the insurance brokers Benfield, Lovick & Rees and it was in the insurance industry that he made his fortune, starting out by making the tea and going on to be a director. By 1980, he had acquired a 32% stake in the company, becoming one of Britain's 100 richest men.
A lifelong fan of Chelsea Football Club, Harding responded to Chelsea chairman Ken Bates' call for new investment in the club in 1993 and invested £26.5 million and joined the board. Chelsea Football Club named one of the stands at Stamford Bridge the "Matthew Harding Stand".
Bates later described Harding as "evil" just a year after his death.
Death and legacy
Harding died at the age of 42 in a helicopter accident in October 1996, while flying back from a Chelsea match at Bolton Wanderers, along with the pilot and three passengers, including journalist John Bauldie. The crash of the Eurocopter AS355 Écureuil 2 aircraft took place at night and in poor weather, near Middlewich, Cheshire. An investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch found that the pilot did not have the experience or qualifications necessary to safely pilot by instruments in such conditions.
Harding's £200 million estate was to be divided according to instructions left with two executors, Mark Killick and Margaret Nugent. Their instructions were to include provision for his twin sons by his wife Ruth and for Ella, his daughter by girlfriend Vicky Jaramillo. Harding also named Jessica, Ms Jaramillo's daughter from a previous relationship in the will. The shareholders in his former business, The Benfield Group, would also benefit. Harding organised a successful management buy-out of the company in 1988. The will was witnessed by the then England football coach Glenn Hoddle and by a London taxi driver called Grant Davis.
- "Valete et Salvete" (PDF). The Abingdonian.
- "Badminton" (PDF). The Abingdonian.
- Glendenning, Barry (25 March 2017). "Rogues' gallery: English football's worst owners, from Becchetti to Bates". The Observer. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "Pilot 'unable to control' Harding helicopter". BBC News. 27 November 1997. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
- "Harding fortune goes to wife and mistress". The Independent. 1 January 1997. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
- Cuckfield Cosmos crowned winners of Matthew Harding Cup final, West Sussex Today, 4 May 2014