Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
Ian Garner
Business Writer
1:02 AM 21st October 2023

Business Book Review: Sir Bob Murray Autobiography

Sir Bob Murray is the former Chairman of Sunderland AFC and the visionary behind the Stadium, Academy and Beacon of Light. In this tell-all book, I'd do it all again he charts his life growing up in the the terraced and dust-choked streets of 1950s Consett to building a kitchen and property empire. Along the way, as business writer Ian Garner finds out, there are boardroom battles at Roker Park. Sir Bob was chancellor of Leeds Beckett University for more than 10 years and he unwittingly became a suspect in the Yorkshire Ripper case after a false tip-off that the killer was from Sunderland with a Wearside accent.

I read this book with a fear that I might not be able to conduct an impartial review. I’m a lifelong Leeds United fan and, even after fifty years, find it hard to forgive Sunderland AFC for 'stealing' the 1973 FA Cup Final. Having said that, I did try to remain objective, and I have to admit I enjoyed the book and Sir Bob’s account of his life, which never strayed far from the football field.

Sir Bob was the former chairman of Sunderland football club, and I guess his blood runs red, although I guess it does for all of us. Mine doesn’t run white, yellow, and blue, but I’m nonetheless passionate about Leeds United.

Enough about me. This is an autobiography about a man who came from humble beginnings to be a recipient of a CBE, the highest ranking Order of the British Empire.

The book is, of course, written in the first person and is the account of a fascinating and apparently tireless man who has achieved so much over his lifetime so far.

He gives great insight into his vision, passion, and achievements.

Most of the books I review are business books, and I often recommend a ‘pick and mix’ approach. You know the sort of thing; read the sections of interest and don’t worry about reading chapters in any sort of order. This is different; this is a ‘pick up and put down’ job.

Each chapter is a reasonably self-contained story, telling the tale of Sir Bob’s life as he travels down a path of philanthropy, business, and sport.

Sir Tim Rice contributes a fascinating and interesting foreword. I wonder if there are times when some of Sir Bob’s anecdotes could be the basis for a West End musical!

There’s a huge amount of name dropping, which is of great interest to a ‘baby boomer’ like me but might be lost on some younger readers.

For the son of a miner, born in the economically challenged post-war North East of England with little in the way of academic achievement at school, it is a remarkable story of rags to riches. Sir Bob describes his progress as a businessperson, building a business empire with significant financial rewards. He also catalogues the great work of the Foundation of Light, a charity he funded with his newly acquired wealth.

The Foundation’s mission is simple: to use the power of football “to invest in the communities we serve and to improve the education, health, wellbeing, and happiness of people, no matter who they are.”

It is financially independent of Sunderland AFC, raising over £4 million each year through donations, grants, contracts, and trading activities. It collaborates with partners such as local authorities, higher education, and housing associations, taking a lead role in delivering projects to benefit local communities and tackle some of society's biggest challenges.

Sir Bob has had a massive impact on Sunderland and Wearside, an area that has had its share of challenges over the past few decades. Sir Bob has done so much to improve the life chances of the local residents of this district, and it is heart-warming to read about his contribution.

There is an element of patting his own back in the book, but I think most of us would agree that he has earned the right to feel good about his accomplishments.

The plethora of football anecdotes, dating back to the fifties and reaching up to the present day, are fascinating for football fans but no less interesting to people not so passionate about the round-ball game.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I enjoyed reading this book, although it took quite a while. It’s a weighty tome, but worth having on the go to read a bit at a time. I’m sure you will be entertained and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.

All proceeds from sales of this book will go to the Foundation of Light
Sold exclusively through the publishers at, the Foundation of Light and Sunderland AFC