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Old 10th July 2006, 05:27   #1
tomclare
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Houston Texas
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Default "Champagne Louis" and Martin and the Several Noughts! Part 1

It is rather ironical really, that but for the sad events of the first week in February 1958, it is more than likely that Louis Edwards would never have been invited to become a director of Manchester United Football Club and that his son Martin, would never have known any involvement with the club at all during his lifetime.

On Friday, January 31st 1958, the Manchester United team, officials, and directors, traveled down to London in readiness for the team's fixture against Arsenal which was to be played at Highbury the following afternoon. On Saturday morning, February 1st 1958, one of the Manchester United directors, Mr. George Whittaker, a Manchester business man, was found dead in bed in his hotel room. He had passed away in his sleep during the night. That afternoon, as a mark of respect, players from both teams wore black armbands, and a minutes silence was observed by both teams and the 55,000 fans attending, prior to the match kicking off.

The game itself is widely remembered, even today, because that cold, grey, February afternoon, United triumphed in a feast of football and goals, by 5-4. Sadly, for some United players, it was to be the last game of football that they ever played on their home, British soil.

The party traveled back to Manchester by train immediately after the game, and the players and manager were in a very buoyant mood given their display at Highbury just a few hours earlier. Accompanying the party that day was a supporter; another Manchester business man by the name of Willie Satinoff. Mr. Satinoff had made his money in the cotton trade in and around the Manchester area. Outside of his business interests, his main pass time was following Manchester United Football Club, and he was fanatical in his support for his beloved club.

Willie was close to Matt Busby. So close in fact, that he had traveled with the United team on all of their European exploits since their journey began in the 1956/57 season. So it was that on February 3rd, 1958, he was the only fan traveling with the team out to Belgrade for the forthcoming return European Cup Quarter Final tie against the Red Star Belgrade club. At that time, it was commonly known within Manchester football circles, that Willie was being tipped to soon become a director at the Club which he was so fanatical about.

Sadly, his hopes and dreams of attaining this position were shattered by the events of Thursday, February 6th, 1958. Willie paid the ultimate price for following his beloved United when he perished in that terrible accident on a snowy afternoon on the runway of the airport in Munich, Germany. Since that date, Willie Satinoff has fast become the forgotten man of Munich. Reams of paper have been written about events; radio and t.v. documentaries have covered the incident in great detail, but apart from Willie Satinoff's name being listed amongst those that perished, he never ever, gets a mention.

His resting place is passed by every day without notice, as hundreds of people make their way by various means along one of Manchester's busiest throroughfares. Many I suspect are fervent Manchester United fans, who today, given the length of time that has passed since the accident happened, wouldn't even know who Willie Satinoff was. For those of you that may be interested, he rests in the Jewish section of the Southern Cemetery, Manchester, almost adjacent to the Manchester Crematorium. As you walk down Barlow Moor Road towards Princess Parkway, and pass by the Crematorium, there is a little gate which allows you entrance into the Jewish section of Southern Cemetery. Willie's resting place is just down on the right hand side of the path, after you have passed through the gate. Unpretentious, just a plain black marble stone, sadly highlighting the details of the date, and where, this United fan passed away.

That Willie has never ever been recognized in any way, by the Club, or anybody else for that matter, has always saddened me. But then again, why ever would he be? He was just a fan. But for me, he is an integral part of the Munich story, and one day, I would hope to see some kind of plaque erected to his memory at Old Trafford.

At the time of the disaster, there was a local businessman who was like a butterfly around people and players connected with Manchester United. He was what people would term a 'hanger on.' That this person was a fan of Manchester United could not be doubted. He had grown up in the 20's and 30's in Salford, not far from Old Trafford football ground. His father was a butcher, and at the age of 14, he had entered the family business. He worked long hours and his escape from his dreary, daily working routine, was Manchester United. They became his passion, and later, as he grew older, his obsession. In 1943, his father died, and together with his brother, they took over the running of the family's butcher business. After the war of 1939-45, rationing was still rife in Britain, and they made their money through expanding the number of shops that they had, and by winning a number of lucrative wholesale meat contracts. The business gained considerable strength and he began to get a little bit of a reputation especially in social circles, He coveted being part of Manchester United and everything that brought with it - the glory, the fame, the power. In pursuit of this goal, he began to court anyone, and everybody connected with the club. He liked to be seen with players, especially the young men who were to become so famously known as the 'Busby Babes.' Through a mutual friend, much to his delight he was introduced to Matt Busby, and he was even more delighted when every now and again, Busby would invite he and his wife to watch a game from the director's box at Old Trafford. It whetted his appetite, and his butterfly approach to anything and anybody connected to Manchester United earned him a hangers-on touch of fame, and the nickname, 'Champagne Louis.' With his business looking exceptionally strong, he had his sights set on gaining a place on the Manchester United Board. The local businessman referred to, was of course, 'Champagne Louis' Edwards!

But for all of Edward's ambition, he was never really a candidate whilst Willie Satinoff was around. Sadly, Munich happened. Within a day of the tragedy, with not only the board and the Club shocked and grief-stricken, but the whole of Manchester and Britain as well, Louis Edwards was appointed as a director of Manchester United and his first ambition had been fulfilled. In the interim period after his appointment, Edwards was happy with his role at the Club. His total shareholding at that time was just 17 shares out of a total of 4,132. In the early 1960's, his company, Louis Edwards and Son, was floated on the Stock Exchange. Edwards made and enormous amount of money from this happening, and it was from this point onwards that he began to set his sights even higher, and wanted nothing less than total control of Manchester United Football Club.

Surreptitiously, and with the help of a Conservative, Manchester City Councillor, Frank Farrington, he began to acquire more shares in Manchester United Football Club. Nobody at the Club realised what he was up to. By 1963, just five years after his elevation to the United Boardroom, Edwards was the club's largest shareholder. Unfortunately for him, the other two large shareholders at that time, Harold Hardman (the Chairman) and Alan Gibson a director, woke up as to what was going on. They forbade any share dealing by either three of them in order to preserve some kind of democracy, and tried to prevent Manchester United coming under the control of any one person who could then do as he liked with the club. Undaunted, Edwards underhandedly carried on amassing shares by any means possible. With the help of his brother, and also his brother-in-law, a certain Denzil Haroun (who was later to become a director at Manchester United) they continued to hound and harass people owning Manchester United shares. In late 1963, even Alan Gibson sold some of his shares to Edwards, being paid 25 pounds for each of 500 shares. By the early part of 1964 'Champagne Louis' had amassed a total of 2,223 shares and owned over 50% of the club over which, he now had personal control. In total, the whole exercise had cost Edwards between 30 - 40,000 pounds! In 1965, Harold Hardman died, and this left little, or even no opposition to 'Champagne Louis' appointment as Chairman of Manchester United Football Club. His lifelong ambition and dream had been at last, fulfilled.

Initially, Edwards' heart and soul were in Manchester United Football Club. He loved the prestiege, the trappings, the power of the position that he held. Football was in his blood, and he was Chairman during a glorious part of United's history. Champions in 1965 and 1967, and finally, the ultimate accolade, European Cup Winner's for the first time in 1968. Life for Edwards and his family was good. He'd seen Old Trafford redeveloped with the building of the famous 'cantilever stand' complete with 'executive boxes' which was built in readiness to coincide with the opening of the 1966 World Cup

Unfortunately for Edwards, after 1968 things began to slowly go wrong, especially in his business life. The family business started losing money, and there were scandals surrounding it. The wholesaling side of the business struggled as the company began to lose contracts and his shops faded from popularity. Come 1975 the business was making a lost and in 1978 it declared losses of some 340,000 pounds. Edwards was really strapped for cash. It was now that he began to exploit the United directors failure to protect the Club from himself some ten years before. In his financial desperation, United became less a passion for the Edwards and more a means for a conveyer of opportunity for him to make money for himself and his family.

The F.A.'s Rule 34 at that time prevented personal profit being made by directors from football clubs. It restricted dividends being paid to shareholders to amount to no more than 5% in the 1 pound value in each share - namely 5 pence in every 1 pound. Directors could not be paid a salary. So Edwards could not vote himself money from out of the club. He brought in an 'advisor', a certain Professor Roland Smith! Together they hatched a plan that would benefit Edwards financially. Basically what they did was to increase the dividend payments simply by multiplying the 5 pences! What they actually did was issue a rights issue which gave every shareholder the opportunity to buy 208 1pound shares for every share that they held. It was ingenious! The club would stay under Edwards control, and he would have 209 times the number of shares!

This created a lot of dissent, especially amongst supporters and even Sir Matt Busby and Les Olive were bitterly opposed to the scheme. They stood up against it and argued that this scheme would be the start of monies being leaked out of the club. Boy, events since have proved them to be so right!

It is fascinating to see that in 1978, only a total of 312 pounds was paid out in dividends. Amazingly, not too long afterwards, after the rights issue, there was more than 1 million shares in the club. In 1979, Manchester United announced a dividend of 50,419 pounds. The following year saw a similar amount paid out.

In 1980, Granada's 'World In Action' exposed 'Champagne Louis' Edwards' dark and sinister side. All of his clandestine, bullying, underhand, and corrupt dealings came to light. Not only in the acquisition of his Manchester United shares, but also in his meat business and the awarding of those lucrative contracts as well. Just four weeks after the Granada programme's airing, he died from a massive heart attack. Lurking in the back ground was his off-spring Martin. He had been made a director of Manchester United in 1970 at aged just 24. This was a move which deeply upset Sir Matt, as Edwards had reneged on a deal that had been agreed some years earlier to promote Sir Matt's son Sandy to the Board. The financial fun was just about to begin!
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