Murray, Sir Robert Sydney
Football club owner and kitchen entrepreneur
Sir Bob Murray was born in Consett, County Durham, into a multi-generational coal-mining family. He left school with few qualifications and was unemployed for a time during the 1960s. He dug himself out of the situation by studying in the evenings for an accountancy qualification at Consett Technical College. In 1973, aged 27, he joined Ladyship Industrial Holdings as general manager of its kitchen company, Gower Furniture. He did well and was appointed to the Ladyship board in 1975.
Bob took a bold step in 1979, leaving Ladyship to form his own kitchen and bathroom manufacturing business, Spring Ram. The company was a big success and, by 1992, annual sales had grown to £194 million, its market capitalisation peaking at £650 million. However, following a board level disagreement over strategy, Bob decided to quit in 1990. He had by now amassed a large personal fortune and could afford to assert his independence, and he re-entered the industry in 1992 through the foundation of a new kitchen business, Omega, which floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2004. Murray retains a controlling interest in the company with the shares held in trust.
Bob Murray is a lifelong supporter of Sunderland AFC. He purchased a controlling interest in 1986 and served as chairman down to 2006. His biggest contribution during this time was to raise the money needed to build the Stadium of Light, with the club decamping its historic home, Roker Park, in 1997. The club listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1996 to help make this possible but de-listed in 2002 and, in 2006, was sold for £10 million to a consortium led by former player Niall Quinn, with Murray receiving £5.7 million. He stood down as chairman but was appointed Life President. He serves as chairman of the board of the club’s Foundation of Light, whose mission is to support the local community. The Foundation has built an outstanding five-storey sports and education complex, the Beacon of Light, opened in September 2018, as a community hub offering inspiration, education and training for young people and adults.
The Beacon of Light perfectly combines Bob Murray’s two passions, sport and education, which he perceives as providing the opportunity for people to lead successful lives. To these causes, he gives his time, vision and commitment as well as money, serving, for example, as Advisor to the Football Foundation and Chancellor of Leeds Beckett University. At Leeds Beckett, he has established a scholarship fund for students from low-income households. In 2001 he donated a six-figure sum to help build an extension to the library of Sunderland University, renamed the Murray Library in his honour. In 2002, he was awarded a CBE for “his extensive work in the North East community”, and in 2010 he became Sir Bob Murray on being knighted for his “services to Football and to Education in the North East”.
Murray, R. (2018). Website of Sir Bob Murray CBE, Available here (Accessed: 08/03/2018).
Ringshaw, G. (2004). Murray to float Omega kitchens for £40m, The Telegraph. Available here (Accessed: 08/03/2018).
The Gazette (2010). The London Gazette of Friday 11 June 2010, Available here (Accessed: 08/03/2018).
The Journal (2013). Sir Bob Murray CBE, former chairman of Sunderland AFC, Available here (Accessed: 08/03/2018).