Charles Martin Edwards (born 24 July 1945) was the chairman of Manchester United from 1980 until 2002. He now holds the position of honorary life president at the club.
Edwards was born in Adlington, Cheshire, England. At thirteen, he failed the entrance exam for Stowe School, his parents' first choice, and went to Cokethorpe instead. He left at 18 with six O levels and no A levels.
He was elected to the Manchester United board in March 1970. He became chairman on 22 March 1980 following the death of his 65-year-old father Louis, the previous chairman. When the Football Association voted to allow football clubs to have one paid director, he became Chief Executive and paid himself an annual salary of £30,000.
During the season when Edwards took over as chairman, United finished runners-up to Liverpool in the Football League First Division, but had not won the league title since 1967 and had not won a major trophy at all in three seasons of Dave Sexton's management. At the end of the 1980–81 season, United finished eighth in the league after seven successive wins at the end of the season. Manager Dave Sexton was looking set to be offered a new three-year contract, but the deal was never signed and Edwards sacked Sexton after four trophyless seasons as manager.
Edwards then began the hunt for a new manager. There was talk that he would appoint Lawrie McMenemy, who had guided Southampton to a shock win over United in the FA Cup final five years earlier, as successor to Dave Sexton. It was also rumoured that United were interested in recruiting Brian Clough, once a league champion and twice a European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest, but Edwards insisted that he would not be approaching Clough about the job vacancy. He instead turned to Ron Atkinson, whose impressive West Bromwich Albion side had qualified for the UEFA Cup three times in four seasons with top-five league finishes, reaching the quarter-finals on one occasion. Atkinson accepted the offer, and soon after this appointment, Edwards made the funds available for Atkinson to bring in Albion's midfielder Bryan Robson for a national record fee of £1.5million. This national record would remain unbroken by English clubs for six years, and Robson went on to be one of the club's greatest ever players.
Atkinson guided United to two FA Cup glories (the first in 1983 and the second in 1985) but in the 1985–86 United faded away to finish fourth after a 10-match winning start to the league season, and speculation about his future as manager was mounting.
In 1982, Edwards had begun looking for younger colleagues to introduce to the clubs board. Sir Matt Busby had been appointed president of the club and Michael Edelson was appointed to replace him, followed in 1983 by the addition of club solicitor Maurice Watkins and club legend Bobby Charlton.
In the summer of 1986, Edwards generated £2.3million (a record fee involving a British club, though Robson's record set in 1981 had yet to be broken by a British club) from the sale of striker Mark Hughes to FC Barcelona of Spain.
On 4 November 1986, United were floundering in the bottom half of the top division and that night were eliminated from the Football League Cup with a 4–1 defeat at Southampton. The following day, the four man board convened in Edwards Old Trafford office and decided a change of manager had to be made. The unanimous decision was to see if Alex Ferguson, then manager of Aberdeen F.C. in the Scottish league was available. According to Ferguson's autobiography, he received a telephone call in his office at Pittodrie from a man with a Scottish accent. He subsequently discovered that this was Manchester United director Michael Edelson who asked Ferguson if he would be interested in meeting Edwards. Following a short discussion, Edwards made contact with Aberdeen F.C. chairman Dick Donald and the four man United board drove immediately to meet Ferguson halfway between the two cities in Glasgow. Negotiations were quickly concluded and 72 hours later Ferguson was installed as manager of Manchester United. Ferguson went on to become the most successful British football manager in history.
Edwards had never shown much interest in football before inheriting the club, preferring to play rugby on Saturday afternoons until giving up through injury. He tried to sell United to Robert Maxwell in 1984 and to the property developer Michael Knighton in 1989. The sale for £10m collapsed when after being given access to the club's books Knighton was unable to raise the funds to pay for the club. However, Knighton was still given a seat on the board, and sources at the time suggested that this was in exchange for keeping quiet about what he had seen in the books.
After the failed sale the club's other directors persuaded Edwards to float the club on the stock market. This raised significant funds the majority for the existing shareholders such as Edwards. Being a public company did not have the stabilising effect that was originally hoped for. The club has been subject to takeover proposals by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB with Edwards reportedly agreeing to sell his stake for £98 million. Edwards gradually disposed of his equity in the club and resigned as Chief Executive in 2000, appointing Peter Kenyon as his successor.
Meanwhile, his efforts helped Manchester United enjoy some of the finest moments of their history during the 1990s and 2000s. The appointment of Alex Ferguson as manager in 1986 was indeed the turning point in United's history after two decades of relative mediocrity, but it took time for things to improve.
United finished second in the league in 1987–88 (Ferguson's first full season as manager), and around this time Edwards had made millions of pounds available to strengthen the squad with the reacquisition of Mark Hughes as well as the signing of high profile players including Brian McClair, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Neil Webb and Danny Wallace. However, an 11th place finish in 1988–89 tested the patience of the club's supporters and as 1989 drew to a close, United's form was so bad (they occupied 15th place in the league on Christmas Day) that there were continued calls from the fans for Alex Ferguson to be sacked. However, Edwards stood by the manager and insisted that the issue of Ferguson being sacked was never up for debate. Some fans even called for Edwards to resign. While Edwards, naturally, admitted that he was disappointing with the lack of progress in the league, he understood the reasons for the disappointment, which was largely down to a series of injuries to key players, and said that he was pleased with Ferguson for his reorganisation of the squad.
The decision by Edwards to remain loyal to Ferguson paid off in 1989–90 as United lifted the FA Cup to end their five-year wait for a major trophy. A year later, United won the European Cup Winners' Cup. 1992 saw United win their first-ever Football League Cup, and a year later they ended their 26-year wait for the league title when crowned champions of the inaugural Premier League. The double followed a year later. 1994–95 was a relative disappointment for Edwards and indeed everyone else connected to United as they were pipped to both the league title and the FA Cup and left without a trophy, but United bounced back the following year to win a unique second double. By this stage, Edwards had been able to raise the funds for United to break the national transfer record on two occasions in the space of 18 months – the £3.75million move for Roy Keane in the 1993 close season, and the £6million move for Andy Cole in January 1995. The success continued for the rest of the decade with another league title in 1997 and a unique league title/FA Cup/European Cup treble in 1999. By the end of the decade, Edwards had made available the cash for United to buy the first two eight-figure signings of their history – defender Jaap Stam and striker Dwight Yorke.
In the 1998–99 he had accepted a £623million bid from Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB corporation to take over Manchester United, but the takeover was cancelled after the Mergers and Monopolies Commission blocked it. The Irish duo J.P. McManus and John Magnier also built a significant stake in the club. However, the club continued to have unprecedented success on the football pitch despite an uneasy relationship between manager Alex Ferguson and Martin Edwards. The success continued into the 21st century, as United retained the Premier League title in 2000 with a record 18-point margin and gained their third successive title the following year.
Edwards enabled United to break the national transfer record twice in 2001 when they signed Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and Argentine midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, but he was forced to resign as Chairman in 2002, after allegations of using a prostitute on an official club business trip to Switzerland. Despite this, he continued to represent the club at FA and UEFA meetings.
He still remains at Old Trafford as honorary life president and sits on the club's football board alongside Sir Bobby Charlton. He sold his 6.7% share in the club to new investor Harry Dobson in 2003.
He has been subject to several newspaper allegations about his private life, alleging several affairs. It was also alleged that he used prostitutes while on club business, in Britain, Brazil and most recently in Switzerland.
Toilet peeping incident
Edwards received a police caution following an incident at the Mottram Hall Hotel, near Macclesfield, Cheshire on 17 August 2002. A woman in her 40's alleged that he had entered the ladies toilets and spied under one of the cubicles at her. He resigned from the Manchester United board soon after news of the caution broke, and stepped down as Chairman seven months later. After the incident, further witnesses came forward stating that they, too, had been victims of similar behaviour in toilets at Old Trafford.
In July 2005, Edwards was convicted of careless driving, having been involved in a head-on collision near Conwy, North Wales that April. He had just left the A55 near Conwy golf club, and took a right-hand bend on the wrong side of the road. In a letter to the court, Edwards explained how he had assumed he was on a one-way road after leaving the expressway. The driver of the other car, a Vauxhall Corsa, was badly hurt in the crash, after his car had collided with Edwards' Mercedes-Benz. Edwards was fined £500 plus £45 in prosecution costs, as well as receiving five points on his driving license.
- Crick, Michael; David Smith (1989). Manchester United: The Betrayal of a Legend. Pelham. ISBN 0720717833.