When Steve Morgan stepped up on stage to collect his honorary degree from the University, the colours of his graduation robe could not have been any more appropriate. The vibrant red alongside the striking gold seemed to represent the two cities – and football clubs - that have a special place in his heart.
Hailing from Merseyside Steve grew up a fanatical Liverpool supporter, but now has the gold of Wolverhampton Wanderers running through his veins after purchasing the Midlands club back in 2007.
In a unique deal, Steve paid former owner Sir Jack Hayward a token £10 for the club, together with a £30 million capital injection. Sir Jack describes the momentous deal which saw Steve become Wolves Chairman as the day he had a ‘heart transplant’ from Liverpool to Wolverhampton.
Steve’s link to Wolverhampton became even deeper when he was presented with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters by the University. The honour from the School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure recognised Steve’s significant services to the home building industry and his entrepreneurial flair and passion for sport and leisure.
At the ceremony at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Steve spoke of his pride at being recognised by his adopted city. “I am really proud and quite choked I am so honoured. It is wonderful to be presented with this amazing honour and I am absolutely delighted. “I very much feel like an adopted son, and I felt that way from the beginning, when I started coming to the club even before I did the deal with Sir Jack Hayward. It just felt right. I met the right town, the right football club and now the right University.”
Steve Morgan has demonstrated entrepreneurial flair from the early days of his career.
Born in Liverpool, Steve, 57, is the founder of Redrow plc, which he started at the age of 21 with the aid of a £5,000 loan from his father. Under his leadership Redrow became one of the UK’s most successful homebuilders and a FTSE 250 Company. He led the flotation of the Company in 1994 and eventually stepped down as Chairman in November 2000, although his company, Bridgemere, remained one of the largest shareholders. Steve returned to the helm at Redrow in March 2009.
Steve is also Chairman of the Bridgemere Group of Companies, which has significant land and commercial development interests in the UK and Europe. Bridgemere’s other activities included Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, Trinity Aviation and Carden Park Hotel, one of the UK’s leading golf resorts.
In 2001 Steve founded The Morgan Foundation, a charity which is one of the largest providers of funding for children’s and family charities across North Wales, Merseyside and West Cheshire.
The Morgan Foundation is also the main funder for “Wolves Aid”, which is the largest charity of its type in football. By his own admission, the three years since purchasing Wolverhampton Wanderers have been the most exciting of Steve’s life.
In 2009, Wolves were crowned Champions of the Championship and are now established in the Premiership.
Plans for a £40 million redevelopment of the iconic Molineux stadium are under way, and Steve is passionate about the inclusion of a museum to showcase the club’s memorabilia and achievements. “I think the new stadium development will be fabulous for the club. We are doing it a step at a time so we don’t over-reach.
“One of the reasons why we’re doing the North Bank first is to move the fans behind both goals closer to the pitch and to incorporate a museum, as the club is so steeped in history and there’s so much for fans to see.
“I’m sure the fans will absolutely love it. Once we start the first phase, they will want the other phases and if everybody comes and supports the team and gets behind the boys, it will happen.”
The football club and University literally sit side-by-side in the city, with lecture theatres and offices a stone’s throw from the stadium. In his graduation speech, Steve recognised the work of the University, led by Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline Gipps, to transform the city skyline through a programme of investment in new buildings.
“When you look at what the University has achieved and the buildings that have been developed, it is a great tribute to Caroline and the team to how they have transformed the University,” he said.
As a successful entrepreneur and passionate advocate for the sport and leisure industries, Steve Morgan had some words of advice for the hundreds of students collecting their degree scrolls on the same day.
"My message would be to have a go, because unless you have a go you are never going to succeed. Never be afraid to make mistakes. Whatever road you decide to take on the crossroads just have a go and good luck.”