David Sullivan (businessman)

For other people named David Sullivan, see David Sullivan (disambiguation).
David Sullivan

Sullivan giving the "Hammers sign", Broadhall Way, Stevenage, July 2014
Born (1949-02-05) 5 February 1949
Cardiff, Wales
Residence Theydon Bois, Essex, England
Nationality British
Occupation Publisher/Businessman
Years active 1970–present
Known for The Daily Sport
Sunday Sport
Net worth Increase £1 billion (2016) [1][2]
Title Joint chairman of West Ham United (2010–present)
Partner(s) Emma Benton-Hughes
Children 2 sons

David Sullivan (born 5 February 1949)[3] is a Welsh businessman and former pornographer. He graduated in Economics from Queen Mary College, University of London. From 1986 to 2007, he owned the Daily Sport and Sunday Sport which he sold for £40 million.[4] In April 2016, Sullivan was named by The Sunday Times as Britain's 117th equal richest man, with assets valued at £1bn.[1] He is the Joint-Chairman and largest single shareholder of Premier League football team West Ham United F.C. He was previously Joint-Chairman of Birmingham City F.C. Sullivan has made significant charitable donations in recent years.[5]

Early life

Born in Cardiff, the son of an RAF serviceman, Sullivan grew up living in a Penarth council house. When Sullivan was 10 years old his father was posted to Aden, Yemen where they lived for a year before moving to England to live in Hornchurch. He attended the Abbs Cross school and gained ten O Levels. After his family moved to Hertfordshire he attended Watford Boys Grammar School obtaining three A levels. He read Economics at Queen Mary College, narrowly missing a first.[6]

Adult industry

With his partner, David Gold, Sullivan's first business venture was selling soft pornography photos. They expanded into sex shops, adult magazines and several low-budget blue movies, making Sullivan a millionaire by the age of 25.[6] By the late 1970s, he was in control of half of the adult magazine market, including major titles such as Playbirds and Whitehouse,[7] 80% of the adult mail order market, and 150 shops.

In the late 1970s he produced several low-budget British sex movies including Come Play with Me (1977) (directed by Harrison Marks). This was followed by The Playbirds (1978), Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair (1979) and Queen of the Blues (1979), all starring his then-girlfriend Mary Millington. After Millington's suicide in August 1979 he continued with Mary Millington's True Blue Confessions (1980) and Emmanuelle in Soho (1981).

In 1982 Sullivan was convicted of living off immoral earnings and after a successful appeal was released after serving 71 days in prison.[8] Sullivan explained that he did not feel embarrassed about the initial source of his early fortunes. "I've made a lot of people happy,” he said. “If I was an arms manufacturer or a cigarette manufacturer, and my products killed millions of my clients, I'd have a bit of doubt about the whole thing. I was a freedom fighter. I believe in the right of adults to make their own decisions."


Sullivan operates an investment company, Conegate, which owns property in London including Russell & Bromley’s flagship shopbuildings in Oxford Street near to Bond Street tube station.[9]


Birmingham City

Despite being a lifelong West Ham United fan, in 1993 Sullivan bought into Birmingham City, with David Gold and Ralph Gold. The landmark deal saw the new owners secure an 80% stake of the Midlands outfit.

In 2007 Sullivan expressed his first desire to sell his share in Birmingham City and openly admitted three reasons for a possible departure.[10] “One, the geographical distance. I've said for years the journey to Birmingham is killing me. Two, I think deep down the public have had enough of us. They think we should have mortgaged our houses to buy more players to compete with Chelsea and Arsenal. The honeymoon is long over and we're at the divorce stage now, unfortunately. And I also feel we've had no support from Birmingham Council."

After 16 years at the club, Birmingham managing director Karren Brady and Chairman David Sullivan agreed to step down from their posts on completion of Carson Yeung's takeover in Autumn 2009.[11]

Then manager Alex McLeish was quick to praise the Sullivan-Gold duo in the press for providing the club with financial stability, admitting he had a huge amount of respect for them and what they had achieved.[12]

West Ham United

On Sullivan’s departure from Birmingham he expressed his intentions to remain in football. Less than one year on in January 2010 he and David Gold acquired a 50% share in West Ham United giving them operational and commercial control and valuing the Premier League club at £105 million. Karren Brady, who had also played a significant role in turning around City’s fortunes, joined the Hammers as vice-chairman.

On the day the takeover was confirmed, an emotional Sullivan said: “It's going to take time to sink in. We've been wanting to sit here for 20 years and together we owned 27 per cent of the club 22 years ago and it's taken us 22 years to get to where want to be. Both me and David are supporters, I went to university here and I lived in Hornchurch. David lived 50 yards from the ground for 20 years of his life and played for West Ham's youth team. We just want to be here where we've always wanted to be. There is no other club we would want to be at so for us we have come home and that's what it's all about."[13]

Within five months the Sullivan and Gold duo pledged a further commitment to the club and on 25 May 2010 they increased their stake to 60% (Sullivan with 30%). Vice-chairman Karren Brady later explained the move gave the football club "the much-needed stability."[14]

In September 2012 Sullivan revealed that together with Gold they were personally funding the club’s transfer business[15] because the ‘cupboard was left bare’ by its former Icelandic owners. He told the Daily Mail that ‘as a business venture, buying West Ham made no sense at all.’ He said, ‘Not the deal we did. The club was £120 million in debt with very few assets. It was a mess. But David [Gold] and I are not in it for the money. We want to put the best possible team on the pitch for the supporters of West Ham because we are supporters too.’

As part of his long term aspirations for the club Sullivan backed West Ham’s bid to move into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.[16] On 22 March 2013, West Ham secured a 99-year lease deal, with the stadium planned to be used as their home ground from the 2016–2017 season.[17] In July 2013 Sullivan became the largest single shareholder of West Ham United acquiring a further 25% of shares in the club.[18]

Personal life

Sullivan lives in Birch Hall, near Theydon Bois, Essex. It was built by Ashby and Horner to Sullivan's design in 1992 and set in around 12 acres (49,000 m2) of land, at a cost of £7.5m for the land and building. This is in addition to a commercial property Empire worth an estimated £500m. His girlfriend is Emma Benton-Hughes, the sister of Jonny Trunk. The couple have two children, David and Jack.[6] Jack Sullivan frequently provides updates on West Ham's transfer dealing via Twitter with his tweets being used by the press for information on possible transfers.[19] In 2013 he apologised after tweeting "I am very sorry about this news Chamakh has sign a 6 month loan deal! not my pick" relating to the loan signing of Marouane Chamakh from Arsenal.[20] In June 2015, Jack Sullivan was given his own news column on West Ham's website, www.whufc.com.[21]

Sullivan is a philanthropist and has been a patron of Prostate Cancer UK for over 15 years. He is also an active supporter of the Teenage Cancer Trust along with several other charities nationwide. Sullivan celebrated West Ham’s promotion to the Premier League in May 2012 by donating a five figure sum to a charity for children with autism.[22]


  1. 1 2 "Login". Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  2. "West Wales Chronicle : Local News for Swansea, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion  – MONEYSUPERMARKET FOUNDER SIMON NIXON JOINS THE RANKS OF BRITAIN'S BILLIONAIRES". West Wales Chronicle : Local News for Swansea, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  3. "Famous Birthdays".
  4. Stephen Brook, press correspondent It is reported that he bought back the titles from the Administrators for £50,000 in May 2011 and the paper resumed publication. (8 August 2007). "Sullivan sells stake in Sport titles". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
  5. "Charities". Archived from the original on 30 November 2012.
  6. 1 2 3 "David Sullivan — living a dream in Theydon Bois, Essex | Essex Life". Essex.greatbritishlife.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  7. Hoyle, Ben (2004). "David Sullivan". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-04-09.
  8. "The big interview: David Sullivan — The freedom fighter". Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  9. "West Ham co-owner David Sullivan looking to sell prime Oxford Street building". www.standard.co.uk. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  10. James, Stuart (27 September 2007). "Sullivan's passion undimmed by his likely departure". The Guardian. London.
  11. "Carson Yeung". The Guardian. London. 16 September 2009.
  12. "McLeish praise for former owners".
  13. "We've Come Home".
  14. "David Gold".
  15. "Sullivan funded Carroll deal".
  16. Gibson, Owen (19 January 2010). "David Sullivan hopes to boost West Ham with move to Olympic Stadium". The Guardian. London.
  17. BBC News (6 March 2013). "BBC Sport — Olympic Stadium: Barry Hearn calls for judicial review". BBC. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
  18. Wheway, Ben (2 July 2013). "DLA Piper leads as Sullivan becomes largest single West Ham shareholder". www.legalweek.com. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  19. "'No bid' for West Ham's Diame". ESPN. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  20. "West Ham sign Marouane Chamakh — to the dismay of owner's son". www.telegraph.co.uk. London. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
  21. "Jack Sullivan Column — West Ham United". Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  22. "Autism Charity Nets Win".


See also

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