Monday, April 12, 2010
Yank Leads Millwall's Resurgence
Millwall has been the home to Americans before. Kasey Keller made his name as the goalkeeper at the Den in the 90's, and former US internationals like John Kerr and Bruce Murray had stints there as well.
Now, an American leads the club into a charge back up the ladder - CEO John Berylson has Millwall on the verge of moving up to the Championship. Brian Sciaretta looks at how the visionary CEO from Boston has revitalized Millwall.
I never played soccer," Berylson told me in deadpan. "Back then the good athletes played football, you know that. I showed up to play soccer [in high school], but the next day, [the football coach] asked me to throw for him. So I did, and that was the end of that. He told me 'You're coming with me, you're on the wrong field.'"
"I didn't really quite understand all the strategies and the nuances of [soccer]," Berylson recalled. "I probably didn't appreciate the good players as much as I should have and it took like three or four months for people to really explain offside to me."
Coming into ownership of Millwall and not knowing when the linesman's flag should go up is not the best start towards winning over the clubs fans, who understandably didn't feel The Yank was qualified. But a quick check of the young-looking 57-year old's resume should have given the Londoners' fanbase a moment to pause before damning him to the same vilification that Glazer, Hicks and Gillett have received.
"I went to high school in Westchester in New York," Berylson said of his background. "I then went to school at Brown for a couple of degrees, and, after a Harvard MBA, I just stayed up here. I guess I'm from Boston. My family started out in the Midwest. Most of my family is still out there."
After he finished school Berylson would move into the financial field as an investment banker where he would achieve the success that has made him a millionaire many, many times over. Over the course of time he would develop many business interests in Great Britain.
Berylson was gradually introduced into English soccer earlier in the decade. He once had an offer to acquire Leeds but decided against it. It wasn't until early 2007 when the opportunity to acquire Millwall arose.
Despite being unfamiliar with the FA structure, or even the nature of the sport, Berylson was at first reluctant, but gradually became intrigued with the deal.
"I thought it was fool's gold and I didn't do it," Berylson said of his initial reluctance. "I've done a lot of stuff overseas, but there is something interesting in this so I started looking at the leagues and understanding it. After that, I did a little bit more on who was what, what was who and like everybody else I had seen all the movies and so I knew exactly what Millwall was in terms of its name."
The more Berylson looked into it, the more he became interested. Eventually, he pulled the trigger and went forward in purchasing the struggling club that was flirting with relegation to League Two, the fourth division of English soccer.
"I guess it was just buying it straight," Berylson recalled of the deal. "It's much more fun, I think, to take something that's had its last breath and breathe life into it than the opposite."
Posted by Mike Jacobs at 5:41 AM