UK’s youngest football boss, 19, put in charge by his billionaire dad
5th December 2018

Britain’s YOUNGEST football boss: Billionaire’s son, 19, tasked with managing West Ham’s women’s side by his co-owner dad David Sullivan stars in his own TV show

  • Jack Sullivan, 19, lives in Essex with his billionaire father David Sullivan, 69
  • David made money in adult entertainment before buying into West Ham United
  • Appointed Jack managing director of West Ham United women’s team in 2017
  • The young football boss’ journey is being filmed for a new BBC Three series 

Britain’s youngest football boss opens up about his struggles of running a top flight club at the age of 19 in a new documentary series. 

Jack Sullivan was appointed managing director of West Ham United women’s team by his billionaire father and West Ham United co-chairman David Sullivan, 69, in 2017 – his first full-time job since leaving school at 16. 

The teenager, who lives in his family’s £13million Essex mansion, has the same dogged determination as his father, one of the richest men in the UK, who made his fortune in adult entertainment before expanding into property and publishing. 

David gave youngest son Jack the responsibility of overseeing the 18-strong women’s squad, which competes in the top flight Women’s Super League, and raising the profile of a sport often dismissed and derided by male fans.   

While his family has complete confidence in Jack’s abilities, the teenager must win over some doubtful players – and deal with the pressures of running a £1million business.

Their journey throughout the season is being filmed for BBC Three’s Britain’s Youngest Football Boss, with the first episode released online today. 

Who’s the boss? Jack Sullivan, 19, was appointed managing director of West Ham United women’s team by his billionaire father Dave Sullivan in 2017. Jack pictured with players: (L-R) Jane Ross, Ria Percival, Kate Longhurst, Lucienne Reichardt, Anna Moorhouse, Julia Simic, Erin Simon, Jack Sullivan, Brooke Hendrix, Gilly Flaherty, Brooke Hendrix, Rosie Kmita, Brianna Visalli, Leanne Kiernan, Claire Rafferty, Esmee De Graaf, Becky Spencer

Determined: The managing director role is Jack’s first full-time job since leaving school at 16. The confident teenager’s journey throughout this season is being filmed for a BBC Three series Britain’s Youngest Football Boss, where he reveals the challenges of running the business

Jack explains he first did work experience at West Ham after leaving school.

‘I did work experience all around West Ham, I went around ticketing, retail, warehouse… That was instead of doing my A-Levels,’ he tells the camera from his family home.

‘As soon as that year finished I said, “Dad I want to do something, I want a task, a mission” and that was to run the ladies, which I love. I jumped in head first.’

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The BBC Three documentary series follows West Ham United women’s team and Jack as he faces the battle to take them to the top of the Women’s Super League – the top flight in the British women’s game. 

David is confident of his teenage son’s abilities to manage the women’s team – even if the players themselves are unsure about his young age.

One of the players who has ‘no idea’ what Jack actually does, says: ‘It’s a little bit like “really? Are you serious?”‘

Another team member adds: ‘That is a bit young to be a director of a club, but I believe he has good vision for the club to take the team to the top.’ 

Role model: Jack’s dad is billionaire David Sullivan, pictured, joint chairman of West Ham United and one the UKs richest men. He made his millions in the adult entertainment industry before expanding into property and publishing

Having leap-frogged two divisions from the part-time third tier into the newly-revamped league, West Ham United women’s team will now, for the first time, compete at the highest level of the sport. 

Jack admits he has a big task ahead of him to transform the fortunes of the team. 

He is dealt a blow when his number one and general manager Karen Ray suddenly hands in her notice a week before the start of the season in September.  

‘She wants to “pursue other opportunities”,’ he tells the camera adding that it is ‘awkward’ to announce.

‘It’s put a lot of pressure on all of us. In terms of me I’ve had to deal with kit issues and a lot of other issues that Karen would have dealt with. 

Insight into the game: BBC cameras will follow Jack and the team on and off the pitch throughout the season as they compete in the Women’s Super League – the top flight in the UK 

The inexperienced teenage MD remains focused though: ‘But we are where we are and we battle on.’   

BBC cameras will follow Jack and the team on and off the pitch throughout the season. 

His family are his biggest supporters and are sure that despite his struggles at school with dyslexia he has what it takes.

Jack’s older brother David Junior, proudly boasts: ‘When we’re at home I’ll be playing FIFA and Jack will be sending emails at ten o’clock at night trying to sign players. 

‘I can’t speak highly enough of him to be honest. If he does manage to do it arguably it could be one of the most impressive things in football.’

Plenty to prove: Jack’s family have full confidence in his abilities but some members of the women’s team are less certain and question whether he has the experience needed for the role

Britain’s Youngest Football Manager is available to watch on BBC Three iPlayer from 10am on Wednesday 5 December 


Before taking on West-Ham, the welsh businessman and Dave’s father made his name as a pornographer, initially selling soft porn photos alongside his partner David Gold.

The pair later expanded into sex shops, adult magazines as well as a few low-budget films seeing Sullivan become a millionaire by the age of 25, and by the late 70s he was responsible for over half of the adult magazine titles in the UK.  

This was followed by several low-budget films that all starred his then girlfriend Mary Millington, who committed suicide in August 1979. 

David Sullivan made his millions in the porn industry before taking on West Ham FC in 2013. Pictured: A portrait of Sullivan (below) and his son as a baby (top)

Seven years on, he took on the Daily Sport and the Sunday Sport which stayed under his name for 21 years until he sold it for £40 million in 2007.   

The first issue of the Sunday Sport went on sale on 14 September 1986. Advertising in the Sunday Sport was once the responsibility of Sullivan’s protegee Karren Brady (now better known for her role as Alan Sugar’s aide on the Apprentice), who went on to work alongside Sullivan in both of his football clubs. 

It’s sister title, Daily Sport came under threat when it went into administration in 2011. However, it shortly returned to publication on 8 May, after it was reacquired by Sullivan for £50,000. 

West Ham football club owners David Gold (left) and David Sullivan (right) with vice-chairman Baroness Karren Brady posing in front of the Olympic Stadium in London

Sullivan now publishes the paper three times a week as Midweek Sport (Wednesdays), Weekend Sport (Fridays) and Sunday Sport, through his company Sunday Sport. 

The papers are reflective of Sullivan’s history in the adult industry with it best known for its semi-nude content of women. 

Meanwhile, Sullivan invested his interests in football, purchasing Birmingham City in 1993 eventually selling his share in the club 16 years on stepping down from the post in 2009.

Less than one year on in January 2010, joined by partner Gold, Sullivan invested in a 50 per cent share in West Ham United giving them commercial control and valuing the Premier League club at £105 million.

In July 2013 Sullivan became the largest single shareholder of West Ham United acquiring a further 25 per cent of shares in the club 

And in April 2016, Sullivan was named by The Sunday Times as Britain’s 117th equal richest man, with assets valued at £1 billion.

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