Dave Whelan sets up a sporting dynasty at Wigan

Dave Weland

Entrepreneur and football sporting hero Dave Whelan announces his retirement as chairman of Wigan Athletic Football club.  He announces his successor as his 23 year old grandson David Sharpe. We look at the reluctance of founders to delay stepping down, or on signs of trouble to take the company back over

Earlier this year I researched business dynasties for the new edition of Dilemmas of Leadership.   In the book, I discuss the critical issues facing a founder intent on preserving a family firm into future generations  Clearly, there will always be dilemmas of succession.  It is not unknown for the family to encourage retirement of a dominant but aging figure.  Nor is unknown for such a figure to delay stepping down, or on signs of trouble to take the company back over. David Whelan, founder and owner of  JJB Sports, would have been a prime candidate for inclusion.

This week [3rd March, 2015] approaching his 80th birthday he announced his retirement, not from the business he founded and developed successfully, but from the Presidency of Wigan Athletic, the football club he sponsored unstintingly since 1995. He also announced that his 23 year old grandson David Sharpe would be taking over in his place. A trusted mentor from within the club has been nominated as Mr Sharpe’s mentor.

 Other reluctant leaders

Recently, [February 25th, 2015] the American satellite company Dish Network announced that founder Charlie Ergen will take over again the company that he founded over thirty years ago.  Since his previous departure, according to the New York Times, there has been ‘a revolving door’ for CEOs in the company.

Acer’s founder, Stan Shih, returned in similar fashion in 2013.

And that most powerful of the late 20th Century tycoons, Rupert Murdoch, another octogenarian,  has up until now postponed his retirement as he tries to decide which of various family members is to become his appointed heir. His son Lachlan Murdoch is currently considered front-runner

The trappings and reins of power

The examples could be compounded. [A good exercise for students of entrepreneurship and succession planing] . The trappings and reins of power are rarely yielded easily.




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