Brian Kennedy won’t be blue over Rangers snub
IF there is one other certainty apart from death and more HMRC tax demands for football clubs, it is that you have not heard the last of Brian Kennedy.
For the boy from Tynecastle High School who grew up supporting Hibs, the chance of taking over at Ibrox is over.
But the one-time double glazing salesman is not going to slip into retirement enjoying the reputed £250 million fortune which has seen him ranked 16th in Scotland in last year’s Sunday Times rich list.
He is, he reveals, already looking to his next venture, a move which will see him turn his attentions from sport to wind farms back in his home city of Edinburgh.
Mr Kennedy, 51, spoke to the Evening News coincidentally as Rangers’ administrators were preparing to deliver their “thanks, but no thanks” verdict to his offer. Time to focus on another adventure then?
“I tried semi-retirement and it drove me and my kids nuts,” he admits.
Besides, it is not as if he is short of a few causes, from being heavily involved in helping fund the search for Madeleine McCann to upholding religious beliefs to continuing to drive English Premiership rugby side Sale Sharks.
Undoubtedly the quest for Madeleine, who until her disappearance in 2007 lived in the same county – Cheshire – would be absolute priority for this father-of-five.
“The McCanns are bearing up about as much as any family would in those circumstances. I don’t think we can ever venture to hypothesise what they have really gone through,” he says.
“We just don’t understand it because we have not gone through it. They are devastated. They are still devastated and they are not giving up the fight. They are still looking for that beautiful little girl. I admire them for their courage, integrity and endurance.
“It has moved over to an enormous police investigation in London which I am delighted about. I hope they make headway, of course.
“Almost no news is good news, as it were. I still believe Madeleine is alive. If she wasn’t, she would have been found by now. We live in hope, but I don’t know what the answer is.”
What, though, has been Brian Kennedy’s journey from self-confessed “humble” origins to partial bankroller of one of the world’s most high- profile police cases, to being prepared to put his hand in his pocket if it meant ensuring Rangers Football Club didn’t go out of existence?
“My dad was a window cleaner but he did it to spend more time with his family,” he says. “Then he joined an industrial cleaning company and became Scottish manager. My dad had managerial ability because he was a wonderful public speaker which came from us being Jehovah’s Witnesses at Kingdom Hall, Slateford.
“My faith is ingrained and studying the Bible from an early age gives you a tremendous education. I am by no manner of means a highly religious person, more spiritual, but the values that the whole of civilisation are built upon are the principles of the Old Testament.
“How to treat people properly was what Mum and Dad were very good at. Being brought up in that environment gave me a good start.
“Business is common sense [and] dealing with people is common sense. I don’t think I have any particular flair. I think it is about common sense, taking the opportunity when it comes and hard work.”
He left Tynecastle High with five Highers at the first sitting and took a place at Heriot-Watt University to study civil engineering. He lasted a week.
“We didn’t have much money and it struck me that I didn’t want to spend four years scrimping and saving and living at home,” he recalls. “I worked with Brown Brothers at the foot of Dundas Street for £5000 a year, which was good money in 1977, then won a sales competition which earned me a job in London.
“I ended up with a shareholding in a business in Manchester. When we sold that I invested the money in other business launches.
“It really does snowball, that’s the right analogy. It is self perpetuating. The bigger you get, the more momentum you get. It always looks impossible from a small pebble, but it is easier when the snowball is rolling than getting it started.
“When I was 21 I took my mum on an aeroplane for the first time – my mum and dad were intelligent people but were of that generation who just hadn’t had the opportunities – but when I said ‘I am going to take you to Tenerife’, she said ‘I’ll believe it when I see the ticket’.
“That made me work hard. Ensuring my folks saw Tenerife was a big motivation.”
Despite being a high-flyer himself, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. He says he hasn’t kept in touch with his old school but is open to an invitation to go back and talk about entrepreneurship to help shape the next generation.
His own youth, he reveals, was dominated by football, and here may lie the key to the Rangers bid.
“From aged 17 I spent a lot of time in Glasgow with my best mate playing for his local football team called Drumoyne which, incidentally, is just next to Ibrox. My pal was from a family of Rangers supporters and I ended up marrying his sister!”
Glasgow’s loss is Edinburgh’s gain and the man who, as an ex-rugby player with the Inverleith club had a spell on the board of Scottish Rugby, envisages spending more time in the Capital as his “most exciting” business venture takes hold.
“I am a big believer in renewable energies and studying them for the last two-and-a-half years has led to the conclusion the only one that works and is viable is onshore wind turbines.
“Turbines produce electricity for 35 per cent of the year and the wind farm we are building will feed 16,000 homes’ total annual usage of electricity.
“I am spending a lot of time in Edinburgh looking at locations to build wind farms because it is the third industrial revolution. Oil is going to get more expensive. The Hubbert Bell curve measures the point where oil resources start to go back and people want to use more.
“I thought we would hit the top of that curve in 15 years. On analysis, we hit it four years ago. Renewable energy will be critical to civilisation. We are as well to start now.”
So, while back home, Brian will be able to wear his old Hibs scarf without fearing accusations of split loyalties as Rangers owner. Typically, he had already worked out a solution.
“I have always said if you are in sport to make money you have been lobotomised and must have inherited your money because you have no sense,” he says. “But I would have got involved at Rangers because you want to do something with your life, give a little back and I dare say take some abuse for that pleasure!
“When Pat Stanton – best footballer ever – left Hibs to sign for Celtic, he had to be loyal to that club but it was a bit emotional, too. He didn’t celebrate any victory while still giving 100 per cent. It would be the same with this owner had I been in charge at Rangers.”