It is a measure of the impact someone has made that even after they have moved on, superstitions about them endure. For some, there’s an almost religious believe that a huge figure cannot be diminished by retirement, loss of status or even death (there’s a special 1970s category for Elvis and Bruce Lee).
Prepare yourself: Peter Lawwell is not Elvis Presley. He can’t sing like Elvis, he seldom dresses like him and under no circumstances should you confuse the supernatural powers attributed to ‘The King’ in the late 70s to our former chief executive.
Peter retired on appointing Ange Postecoglou in the summer of 2021, when Dominic McKay started his summer placement in charge. By September, Michael Nicholson, previously company secretary and in-house lawyer, was temporarily then permanently given the top job.
18 months after he left, Lawwell agreed to replace Ian Bankier as chairman. As Celtic’s representative, Peter was on the board of the European Club Association (currently vice chair) and was working with Uefa on the new Financial Sustainability Regulations. It suited the club and our interests that Peter take the role, allowing him to extend Celtic’s influence at Uefa.
Back when Elvis’ died, football club chairmen carried executive roles. They often opened the doors in the morning, did the accounts, sorted the banking and were always responsible for player contracts and budgeting. The role has changed. Lots.
In a modern PLC, a chairman is a non-executive, “unconnected with the day-to-day management of a business and which is instead concerned with effective management of the board”. That means they are unconnected to player contracts, signing strategies or – and I cannot be clearer on this one – managerial appointments.
Such matters are reserved for the executive team and any major shareholders they are answerable to. At Celtic, this is Michael Nicholson and Dermot Desmond.
Peter Lawwell was a huge influence in Scottish football and a significant figure in Europe. Without him at the helm in 2012, Newco Rangers would have been voted into the SPL, debt free and ready to go again. Back then I got some credit for starting a campaign on this issue, but take my word for it, all credit was due to Peter. He fought and won the most intense battle Scottish football has ever seen, and like Keyser Soze, he left everyone searching in the shadows.
We scarcely got to see Dom McKay and Michael Nicholson has had two and a half years of low-profile management, a benefit of inheriting a club on the up. As a consequence, when people think ‘Celtic board’ they assume Elvis lives. In every meaningful way, Elvis has left the building. He doesn’t sing the songs or choose the band. If you think otherwise, you’re howling at the (blue) moon, and ironically, applying absolutely no pressure to the wound.