Who are the biggest Celtic shareholders? Who really wields the influence at Celtic Park?
All season, battles between the supporters and the board have been dominating the headlines. The Celtic Trust have been a name on supporters’ lips in 20-21. Celtic Shared emerged this league campaign, with the onus on pressuring the board into sharing equity with supporters.
But who are we talking about when we talk about shareholders? Especially when we discuss real power at the club? After our earlier story on Lindsell Train, we’ve decided to take a deeper dive into who holds the influence at Celtic.
All share numbers, names and percentages are correct as of 14th May 2021, via Market Screener.
Dermot Desmond: the key man at Celtic
We all know Dermot Desmond.
With his comic villain moustache, the Irish businessman has held sway at Celtic since the early oughts. His career began, somewhat predictably, with institutions like Citibank and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the latter of whom took him to Kabul, Afghanistan.
His biggest moves, in terms of public interest, were his 1995 purchase of London City Airport and his sale of BETDAQ to Ladbrokes in 2013 for €30m. The former made him a popular name in investment circles, having taken a struggling airport into one of the most profitable in the UK, and he sold it for several times its initial worth [Irish Times].
The latter is not without a touch of controversy. Desmond’s foray into betting saw him become an industry leader, particularly in Ireland. You might argue that being a significant shareholder [BBC] in a betting company while being majority shareholder of a football team is a conflict of interest. Who can say?
In 2017, Desmond defended accusations of tax avoidance after the release of the Panama Papers [BBC]. He has a 34.7% interest in Celtic Football Club.
Lindsell Train, owned by the eponymous Nick Train and Michael Lindsell, is a global equity fund with interests in digital media. Train is the real face of the fund, who also have major shareholdings in Juventus and Manchester United.
Seeing where the wind is blowing in terms of digital and traditional media, Lindsell Train’s concern is in connecting itself with global brands, particularly sporting ones, the equity group also has interests in technologies and other global brands.
Expect Lindsell Train’s influence to grow as football audiences change. The evolution of eSports and the market share of potential viewers is of interest to Lindsell Train, as would potential league reconstruction. However, the group don’t seem too enthused by the idea of a Super League, preferring its investments to stay relevant to local football communities, as we shared earlier.
Lindsell Train also has relationships with brands like A.G. Barr and Diageo, whose Johnnie Walker brand established a deal with Scottish Rugby and the next Celtic CEO, Dominic McKay [Scotman].
Have you ever seen “Forrest Media” on a billboard anywhere in Glasgow? Congratulations, you’ve met Chris Trainer.
Trainer made more than £30m in 2018, selling the Forrest Media group to a London-based commercial group [Herald]. Primarily involved in outdoor advertising and marketing, Trainer is also active with Clear Channel’s Scottish operations [Company Check], as well as investment funds like Quad Securities, who have fingerprints across a suite of commercial projects.
Unfortunately, Trainer made the news most recently for being one half of one of Scotland’s messiest, most expensive divorces. The Celtic director’s ex-wife then went on to date former Bhoys striker Darren Jackson [Daily Record].
James Mark Keane
With a 6.26% stake in Celtic, we rarely hear about James Mark Keane, if at all. The owner of Woolen Mill and Kiltane, Keane is a big name in the wool and clothing game in Scotland.
Primarily based in Edinburgh, Keane’s holdings are in companies involved in more traditional Scottish clothing, and in property development.
He’s not to be confused with former Director John Keane, who was part of Fergus McCann’s consortium to save the club in 1994 [Celtic Wiki].
Thomas Eardley Allison – a Celtic Non-executive Director since 2001
Thomas Allison is a massive name in shipbuilding and marine technologies. Award a British Empire Medal at the end of last year for his services to business and charity [Herald], Allison is a long-tenured figure in marine finances, with interests beyond Glasgow.
Like James Mark Keane, Allison is a shareholder in Kiltane, but his primary businesses include The Manchester Ship Canal Co. and Birkenhead Port.
At the time of writing, the former Clydeport director Allison has a 3.56% stake in Celtic Football Club. He was appointed to the Bhoys’ board in 2001, and is a member of the Nomination Committee. His influence, then, is pretty significant.