Who wouldn’t dream about the kind of job Chris Alexander has? When starry eyed young graduates ask him « What do I have to do to get a job in football? », he tells them to notch up as much experience as possible, and be ready to seize the opportunity when the time is right, in football, or elsewhere!
Because when the ex-N° 9 for the Nottingham University football team was a biology student, he could certainly never have imagined that one day he would manage operations for one of the most powerful clubs in Europe.
Chris Alexander graduated in 1983, decided to become a Chartered Accountant, and trained for three years at PWC (One of the ‘’Big four’’ in the world of auditing). « At that time, it was part and parcel of the British educational system to study a subject you liked, and then make a more “serious” job choice to launch your professional career. »
He discovered the profession with interest, but quickly understood that he was not cut out for consultancy. « I needed a company with concrete products and plans to develop. »
Everyone is able to build their own freedom. Constantly developing your skills, and testing them, learning to be perseverant and hardy allows you to increase your field of possibilities. By taming your fears, you can escape from routine, face up to the unexpected, think and act differently, and jump into the cold waters of the unknown.
In 1987, he went to work for Mowlem, one of the biggest and oldest building companies in the U.K., who is behind such well-know structures as London Bridge. At the head of the Financial Management department, he enjoyed the variety of his different assignments. « But soon I needed a few more risks and challenges. Company finance can quickly become a routine! »
The early 90’s crisis in the building industry gave our young Financial Controller the opportunity of jumping out of his comfort zone. The Mowlem group were making losses, especially in their French subsidiaries.
Chris Alexander set up as Financial Manager in … Trévoux, peaceful hamlet of 7000 souls on the left bank of the Saône, about thirty kilometers north of Lyon. « My first few months were awful. I had to negotiate a lay-off plan and implement a quick turnaround, in an environment with cultural, social, and regulatory components that not only I knew nothing about, but which was often totally disconcerting! »
In 2000 all the subsidiaries in the group were consolidated: and that signalled the end of Chris’ first period. « I am convinced of the necessity of constantly upgrading your skills. You can’t spend your whole life resting on the laurels of your first diploma. » Chris Alexander did an MBA at EMLYON, and then decided to go back to the U.K. with his family. « I loved France and that remarkable training course, but in 2002, there were not many opportunities in France for a Brit. »
At that time, Chelsea FC (one of the ‘’Big Four’’ of English football) was going through a bad patch (bad sports results, financial problems…) and was looking for a Financial Director. « It was four months before Roman Abramovich bought the club. I wasn’t in on the confidential negotiations. I just came on board for the challenge of the turnaround: and it turned out to be an even more exciting adventure than I had imagined. »
Chris Alexander’s area of responsibility goes right up to the edge of the pitch at Stamford Bridge: in this outfit with a budget of € 400 million – the 7th biggest club in Europe – he supervises finance, HR, IT, and equipment with efficiency and discretion; today he is getting to grips with the “Financial Fair Play” project of the UEFA.
In this world of mega big numbers and tabloid life-style, he keeps cool by swimming several times a week in the invigoratingly chilly water of the Tooting Bec open air pool.
EM Lyon: MBA 2001 Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC Date de parution : 01/06/15