Family fortune sacrificed to save Dundee United

There are Dundee United supporters who would present chairman and owner Stephen Thompson as a man sacrificing their club's future. They do so disgruntled by the odds lengthening on the Tannadice side escaping the Championship this season '“ along with the number of loans required to keep the finances stable.
Stephen Thompson is under fire, with United struggling to get back to the top flight. Picture Michael GillenStephen Thompson is under fire, with United struggling to get back to the top flight. Picture Michael Gillen
Stephen Thompson is under fire, with United struggling to get back to the top flight. Picture Michael Gillen

Yet, Thompson could point to profound sacrifices that he has made for his beloved club across his family’s 16½-year stewardship of United.

“I take nothing out the club now. I haven’t done for a year. I only did it for three years,” said Thompson, who assumed the chairmanship from his late father, Eddie. “I love the club to bits, kick every ball, my language is probably worse than ever now at games and I have a big responsibility.

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“You end up remortgaging your house [to live]. Other chairmen have done it. Stewart Gilmour [of 
St Mirren] talked about it in the past, but I am not here to talk about me.

“One of the problems I’ve inherited is when we sold [convenience store chain] Morning, Noon and Night [in 2004], everybody saw this big 
£26.7 million and thinks that’s what we got. We got a fraction of that 
after the bank and investors getting paid back, so the family wealth isn’t what people think. The family’s wealth has basically gone, simple as that.”

Thompson can’t say if what continues to drive him on in the face of supporter hostility is the memory of how much United meant to his father, who died in 2008.

“You should ask my mum,” he said. “You would get straight talk from her. My father loved the club, there’s no doubt about that.

“It was hard at first following in the footsteps of my dad, he had a different way of putting it and he had a lot of money behind him, I said that at the agm [this week], I don’t.

“We are going back a long, long time but when my father took over he had great passion for the club. He loved the club, used to take me to all the games as a kid, home and away, but I don’t think he realised the challenge when he took the club on board.

“It has never been put in the public domain but Morning, Noon and Night was sold for the sake of this club, to save it, because my father didn’t have the wealth, he didn’t realise how much was needed, so we sold a very profitable business to save the club.

“That has never been talked about in the public domain. But these are all historical things. It’s the past. We can’t do anything about it.

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“My father also knew he had cancer for the last five years, he was fighting that. Never talked about it to me or my mum. He just desperately wanted success for the club and he knew he had a certain time and he cared.

“I’ve been chairman for eight and a half years now. What drives me on? I care about the club. I am not happy at all at where we are.

“The fans aren’t happy, the staff aren’t happy, the board aren’t happy, none of us are happy with where we are but we are trying to rebuild 
the club.”