The Premier League’s most valuable club is getting a new boss. Manchester United announced Thursday morning that current managing director Richard Arnold would be appointed CEO, effective Feb. 1. He takes the reins from vice-chair Ed Woodward, who has led the club since 2013.
The move follows a turbulent year for Man United. Woodward announced his intention to step down last spring, after United and 11 other European football clubs’ proposal to break away from their domestic leagues to form a European Super League turned into a debacle. The club outmaneuvered Manchester City to add Cristiano Ronaldo during the summer transfer window, but United head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was fired in November after a rocky start to the season. United is currently seventh in the Premier League standings, 22 points behind first-place Man City. United last won the Premier League during the 2012-13 season, the last of 13 titles over 21 years under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“We are now looking forward to Richard and his leadership team opening a new phase in the club’s evolution, with ambitious plans for investment in Old Trafford, the strengthening of our engagement with fans, and continued drive towards our most important objective—winning on the pitch,” Joel Glazer, Manchester United executive co-chairman, said in a statement announcing the news.
Arnold, 50, joined the club in 2007 and was responsible for sponsorships, retail, merchandising, licensing and digital media as its commercial director. He was appointed managing director in 2013, overseeing all operational and commercial aspects of the club. In the late 1990s, he worked in the technology sector at PricewaterhouseCoopers, overlapping with Woodward at the consulting firm. And like Woodward, Arnold attended Bristol University.
Arnold has been deemed a Woodward 2.0 by some, based on his background and long tenure at the club. But one big change that should enthuse United fans is an expected greater autonomy for those in charge on the football side. Football director John Murtough will lead those decisions, with help from Darren Fletcher. Murtough and interim coach Ralf Rangnick will both report to Arnold, but he is expected to be less “hands-on” than his predecessor, according to one source.
“I am honored to have the chance to serve this great club and its fans,” Arnold said in a statement. “I am determined to return that honor in any way I can.”
Manchester United announced plans last year to create a new class of ownership shares for fans to help satisfy critics of the club. It also established the Fans Advisory Board, which Arnold co-chairs, to foster dialogue between the team and its supporters.
The stock of publicly traded United is off 29% since late September. Its current enterprise value is $3 billion, but the team would fetch a much higher price, according to bankers, if it were put up for sale by the Glazer family, which acquired control of the team in 2005 in a debt-laden deal. Sportico valued the team at $4.65 billion in May, $510 million ahead of second-ranked Liverpool.