Milan Mandarić at the Walkers Stadium on 30 July 2007
5 September 1938
Gospić, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Milan Mandarić (Serbian Cyrillic: Милан Мандарић; born 5 September 1938) is a Serbian-American business tycoon who has owned a string of successful businesses and football clubs including Portsmouth, Leicester City, Sheffield Wednesday and Olimpija Ljubljana. He was born near Gospić, Kingdom of Yugoslavia (nowadays Croatia), on 5 September 1938, and grew up in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Yugoslavia and Serbia
He took control of his father's machine shop aged 21, and by the age of 26 had turned it into one of the largest businesses in the country. At the time Yugoslavia was a socialist country, but a relatively free one.
In 1969, worried by the government's view of his business, he left Yugoslavia and settled in the United States. He had to leave most of his fortune behind, and got a job for an American computer component manufacturer in California. When two of the senior managers left to start their own firm, Mandarić was invited to be their third partner. The firm was successful, but disagreements over manufacturing processes led to Mandarić leaving to form his own company, Lika Corporation, in 1971. In 1976, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. By 1976 Lika Corp. was the largest manufacturer of computer components in the USA, and Mandarić was pioneering the boom that led to the creation of California's Silicon Valley. He sold the company to the Tandy Corporation in 1980 and set up a new company, Sanmina, which manufactured printed circuit boards. In 2001 the company acquired SCI Systems, a much larger competitor, becoming Sanmina-SCI Corporation. Mandarić also began branching out into investment banking operations such as Behrman Capital. He also became owner of the St. Louis Storm, a Major Indoor Soccer League franchise that ceased operations in 1992 when the MISL also folded. He was ranked 1049 in the times top 2000 rich list worth £75m.
Around the same time he had begun using his money to invest in football, his passion since childhood (as a young man he had played for Novi Sad). He set up firstly F.C. Lika, then San Jose Earthquakes which played in the USA's first professional league. In 1978, he purchased an NASL franchise called the Connecticut Bicentennials and moved them to Oakland, California to play as the Stompers. After one year in the East Bay, the team was moved to Edmonton to become the Drillers.
After struggling for a number of years in the second tier of English football (now called the Football League Championship) Portsmouth won promotion as champions to the Premier League, arguably the richest football division in the world. This was due in large part to Mandarić's appointment of the experienced manager Harry Redknapp. Mandarić appointed Velimir Zajec as executive director, a move that caused tension between Redknapp and Mandarić. Shortly afterwards Redknapp resigned from Portsmouth.
In January 2006, Mandarić sold a 50% stake in the club to French-Israeli businessman Alexandre Gaydamak. After the club's survival that season, Mandarić sold his remaining share of Portsmouth to Gaydamak, but stayed on as a figurehead in his role as non-executive chairman.
Mandarić resigned as chairman of Portsmouth on 21 September 2006. Since then, Portsmouth appeared to prosper, with successive top-10 Premier League finishes and an FA Cup win in 2008; however, the club was relegated in 2010. They have since dropped dramatically, suffering the ignominy of successive relegation in 2012/13 and 2011/12. They are now in the 4th tier of English football, League Two.
On 24 February he made a bid for East Midlands club Leicester City, believed to be in the region of £25m. He had wanted to remain outside of football for a longer period, however he "had to accelerate takeover plans" because of bids for the club by at least two other parties. On 18 November 2006 Leicester accepted his approach to take over the club at an extraordinary general meeting.
Despite setting an initial takeover deadline of 15 December, negotiations stalled, reportedly after hidden debts in the club's accounts surfaced during the due diligence period. However, both parties dismissed reports that the takeover bid was in danger of collapse, stating that it had merely been delayed. Indeed, on 2 January the Leicester Mercury reported that the deal was in fact close to completion after Mandarić's revised terms were accepted by the club's board. On 15 January the paper reported that an official announcement confirming the takeover "will probably be on Thursday".
On 25 January Mandarić put his bid for Leicester on temporary hold after news of his mother's illness back in Serbia. There were wild rumours that suggested he was on the verge of pulling out and, indeed, the delay guaranteed that manager Rob Kelly would not enjoy the benefit of a cash injection before the season's transfer window closed on 31 January. However, Mandarić returned from Serbia to complete the deal the following week.
On 13 February 2007, Mandarić was officially unveiled as owner of Leicester City. However, that the club were still a PLC meant he did not acquire the title of Chairman for a further 23 days. In April 2007, he sacked manager Kelly and replaced him with Nigel Worthington as caretaker manager for the last five games of the season. At the end of the season, Martin Allen was named the club's new permanent manager but Allen left after only three months in charge in August as a result of deteriorating relations with Mandarić. Gary Megson was then appointed in September, becoming the third manager since Mandarić took over the club. Megson left after only six weeks in charge to take control of Premier League team Bolton Wanderers. Ian Holloway was Mandarić's fourth permanent manager, appointed in November 2007. However, Leicester were relegated to League One at the end of the season for the first time in the club's history; many observers attributed this to the large turnover in managers since Mandarić took control of the club.
However after stormy times things started to look up for Mandarić in the form of Leicester City being crowned champions of Coca Cola League One on 18 April 2009 under the stewardship of Nigel Pearson. The Foxes came close to achieving a second successive promotion the following season (something not achieved by any club at this level for a decade) as they finished fifth in the Championship but lost to Cardiff City in the playoff semi-finals.
During the close season, it was reported that Mandarić had agreed to sell Leicester City to a consortium of Thai businessmen, but these reports were swiftly denied by club officials. However, just weeks later he sold the club for a reported £40m to Vichai Raksriaksorn and his son Aiyawatt. It later emerged that Mandarić was a shareholder in the consortium and he was re-appointed chairman.
On 29 November 2010, Mandarić agreed to purchase Sheffield Wednesday. The purchase was completed after an Extraordinary General Meeting of Sheffield Wednesday's shareholders on 14 December 2010, during which 99.7% of shareholders voted to sell the company to Mandarić's UK Football Investments for £1. Mandarić has agreed to settle the club's outstanding debts as part of the largely confidential deal. Mandarić also stepped down as chairman of Leicester City, due to Football League rules preventing him from being the Chairman of two different clubs.
- Slater, Matt (16 March 2015). "Milan Mandaric: Football's Mr Fixit says farewell". BBC Sport. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
- Barnes, Simon (3 December 2005). "Why does a successful man want to risk looking like a bloody fool". The Times. London. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- Liew, Jonathan (12 January 2010). "Former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric to face tax charges". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
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- Milan Deal: It's almost there! by Leicester Mercury
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- "Redknapp held in football inquiry". BBC News. 28 November 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
- "Foxes deny sell-off rumours". The Sun. London. 14 July 2010.
- "Club Announcement – Sheffield Wednesday PLC ("the Company")". Sheffield Wednesday F.C. 14 December 2001. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- "Milan Mandaric completes Sheffield Wednesday takeover". BBC Sport. 14 December 2010. Archived from the original on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013.