Dublin woman Susan Whelan has played a big part in Leicester City’s rise to the summit of English football. In her role as Senior Executive Vice President of Thai travel retailer King Power International Group, who own the club, and CEO of Leicester City Football Club, the Howth native is one of the few women at the very top of the male dominated sport.
Leicester City Football Club was acquired in 2010 by Asian Football Investments, a consortium led by King Power Chairman Vichai Raksriaksorn, and she was appointed to her role of CEO in July 2011.
Ms Whelan has executive responsibility for all aspects of the club’s day-to-day management, juggling that with a key leadership role at King Power. She splits her time between London, Leicester and Bangkok.
When she was appointed to run the club, she had no football experience having started her career working in her family’s city centre jewellery business.
Following that, in 1990 she joined Aer Rianta in 1990 as a buyer. Due to the nature of her role involving a lot of travel she relocated to Bangkok for the opening of a major retail operation at the city’s World Trade Centre but when Aer Rianta pulled out of the project and local firm King Power took it over, its owner Vichai Raksriaksorn asked her to work for him.
In spite of supporters early reservations towards her appointment due to her lack of experience of the football world, Whelan has proven herself an excellent business woman leaving Director of Football John Ruskin and others running the football side of the business to do their jobs.
She has also been responsible for the hiring of managers and her decision to bring back Nigel Pearson paid dividends in 2014 when the club won promotion back to the Premier League.
Leicester City pulled off the great escape last season when they recovered from last with seven games to go to 14th.
Pearson was dismissed after he could not accept that his son, who was involved in an unsavoury incident on a pre-season tour, had to leave the club.
Understandably Leicester City fans were more than a little wary when Whelan asked them to trust her and the owners after she appointed Claudio Ranieri as Pearson’s replacement.
Speaking last summer on the day the charismatic Italian was unveiled as the new Foxes boss she said.
“I read the papers so I know there was criticism from some areas, but I think the majority of the supporters still understand because we have demonstrated it consistently over the last five years,”
“We genuinely always try to do our best for Leicester City and to keep the club as the primary driver in any decision that is taken.
“I understand there was probably some frustration in terms of the fact it was quiet during the interim, but I think the supporters know that is our way.
“If something is private and confidential we prefer to talk about those things behind closed doors.
“We don’t talk about our business in the public domain every day. I am confident and sure the majority of the fans will have trusted in the judgement of the board.
“Claudio is a man of vast experience and knowledge. We are very pleased to have him here at the club and he is going to lead us into the next chapter of the club’s history.”
What an unbelievable appointment that has turned out to be and what a season Leicester City have had. Susan Whelan deserves great credit for the role she has played in their success.