David Parkin on the football fan who has gone from Los Angeles to Leeds

WHEN I saw a headline referring to Leeds United appointing a “lifelong” fan to its board of directors I suspected this might have been prompted by recent events in football.

The short-lived launch of a European Super League by some of the biggest clubs in Europe including six from the Premier League unleashed an extraordinary backlash from those at the pinnacle of the football pyramid right down to the grassroots.

It prompted not just calls for some of the remote foreign owners to exit stage left but also for better representation of fans on the boards of their clubs.

But experience shows that sticking a bloke in a bobble hat and a rattle at the end of the board room table and bamboozling him with numbers doesn’t really bring accountability to football clubs whose rich owners are used to getting their own way.

Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizanni has proved a shrewd owner of the club from the inspired appointment of Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa delivering a return to the Premier League to bringing in significant investment from 49ers Enterprises, an arm of the US sports business group which owns the San Francisco 49ers NFL team.

The appointment of lifelong fan Peter Lowy to the board seemed a sensible move.

Except Peter Lowy isn’t your average football fan.

He’s worth about three billion quid.

The Australian was previously co-chief executive with his brother Steven of the Westfield Group, the shopping centre developer founded by their father Frank and which expanded from Australia to the United States and Europe before being sold to a French property group for £18.5bn in 2018.

I was with Edward Ziff, the chairman of property group Town Centre Securities, yesterday and he knows Peter Lowy and spoke with great enthusiasm of his arrival at Leeds United.

Edward was at the final match of the season on Sunday at Elland Road and had a chance to catch up with Peter, who grew up in Australia, not watching Leeds on the TV but listening to commentary of the team’s exploits under Don Revie in the late 1960s.

Peter Lowy now lives in Los Angeles and is a significant investor through the family’s investment company Lowy Family Group, in the 49ers Enterprises investment vehicle.

Edward said that despite living in California, Peter Lowy told him he hopes to get to around half of Leeds’ home matches next season.

Only my only visit to Australia several years ago I was amazed at how many huge buildings carried the Westfield logo.

Its expansion outside Australia saw it develop the Westfield World Trade Centre, the largest shopping mall in Manhattan, Westfield Century City, a 1.3m sq ft outdoor shopping plaza on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, Westfield Stratford the biggest shopping centre in Europe and Westfield Derby, which is in between the inner ring road, St Trinian’s Fun Pub and Bubbles Massage Parlour in the iconic East Midlands city.

As well as his role running the family business, Peter has also held a number of civic appointments during his career including serving as the Chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and is a director at the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the RAND Corporation.

The Lowy family are long-time supporters of football in Australia, with his father Frank and brother Steven acting as chairman of the Football Federation Australia (FFA) from 2003 to November 2015 and 2015 to 2018.

Edward also told me the extraordinary story of Sir Frank Lowy, who was knighted by the Queen in 2017.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1930, his family moved to Hungary when he was a child.

When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, Sir Frank’s father, Hugo, immediately sought to buy rail tickets at Budapest station to get the family out.

He was arrested there and his son, who was 14 at the time, never saw him again.

He only discovered in 1991 that his father had been taken to the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he had been beaten to death.

Sir Frank visited Auschwitz four years ago where in a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day he revealed his father had been murdered for refusing to give up his prayer shawl and his tefillin, boxes worn by Orthodox Jewish men during weekday morning prayers.

In his biography, Pushing the Limits, Sir Frank recalled: “Once father was taken away, my childhood ended.

“My days were spent scheming how to live, eat and survive. I don’t remember having any friends.”

Sir Frank and his mother, Ilona, spent the rest of the war in a Budapest ghetto and after the war he made his way to France where he caught a ship to Palestine but was caught by the British and interned in a detention camp in Cyprus.

He eventually arrived in the Middle East where he fought in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War in the Galilee and Gaza, the conflict that led to Israel’s formation as an independent state.

In 1952, as a penniless migrant and speaking little English, he arrived in Sydney, where his mother had already moved, getting a job as a delivery boy for a delicatessen owned by a fellow Hungarian called Jeno Schwarcz who later changed his name to John Saunders.

The two launched a food store in 1953 in the western suburbs of Sydney – hence the Westfield name – and then started to develop suburban shopping centres.

It is a fascinating story.

Peter Lowy sounds like the kind of credible, successful character that any football club would welcome on its board of directors.

The fact that he is actually a long-time supporter of Leeds United is even better.


CLEARLY I’m not alone when it comes to being a fan of the classic British gangster film Get Carter.

I wrote last week about the film’s 50th anniversary this year.

It was the choice of banker turned entrepreneur Martin Allison at one of our film club evenings a couple of years ago and he remembered the beach where the film reaches its bloody denouement which wasn’t far from where he grew up in Sunderland.

And then accountant and business adviser Denis Kaye dropped me a note with some vivid memories he has of the film being made in his native North East.

“I enjoyed your reminiscence which took me back to my late teenage years in my home city watching Get Carter being filmed; I can still see the red Jaguar Mk2, without doors, speeding across the High Level Bridge countless times as they went through the retakes.

“My favourite recollection of that time was the story about Michael Caine being taken into one of those smoke-filled pubs near Newcastle Central Station.

“It was the ‘Victoria & Comet’, but known as the ‘Spit & Vomit’. Apparently when asked by the landlord what he’d like to drink, Michael Caine replied ‘A pint of lager’ to which the landlord responded ‘Sorry we don’t serve lager – we don’t get many ladies in here’.

“Apocryphal or not, it is a great story from the real north of England.”

I’ve been to Newcastle and I doubt that story is apocryphal.

Meanwhile PR man Robert Beaumont said: “Thank you for an especially good column today, David. Guy Martin-Laval, La Grillade and Get Carter in one post. Sublime.”

From my memories of that much-missed Leeds brasserie, mine host could turn into a French version of Jack Carter if he decided he didn’t like a particular customer.

Which didn’t happen very often.

Probably only a couple of times a week.


LAST week’s mention of innuendo brought this response from Yorkshire International Business Convention founder and food entrepreneur Mike Firth: “My brother had a moggy known as ‘Cooking Fat’…”

Have a great weekend.


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