One of the most successful businessmen in the region, he sold his greetings card company for £350m in 2010.
What is your first Yorkshire memory? I was born in Morley opposite the Mermaid fish restaurant and my first memory is playing football in Britannia Square. Every time I go back for fish and chips I say to my wife: “I was born across there.” It was a tough childhood. We had very little and my mother was a single parent. I would also say that Bonfire Night was another big memory when all the family came together. I have fond memories, too, of our holidays which were taken at Beachcomber Holiday Park in Cleethorpes. I’ve no complaints about my childhood as I was part of a very loving family and money doesn’t always make you happy. You had to fend for yourself which probably gave me a good grounding for what I achieved in life.
Which is your favourite part of Yorkshire and why?
I love Castle Hill overlooking Huddersfield. I see it when I go over Kirkheaton on my way into work at Huddersfield Town. On a wintry morning, I can see the snow and the frost on the Pennines behind. It’s a stunning sight, one of the best in Yorkshire. But if I have to get away, one of my favourite spots is Burnsall, Appletreewick and Grassington. It’s a superb area. I met my wife in the Dales, at a campsite in Settle.
What do you think it is that gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
There are a couple of things. I think the people are honest and straightforward. They don’t play games and tell you what they think. I also think Yorkshire folk are most friendly. You go for a walk and people say “good morning” or “hello”. Our manager, David Wagner, says that in Germany you walk past someone with their dog and their head is down. They don’t communicate. Here people have smiling faces.
What is your favourite walk?
I like very much the walk by the River Wharfe from Grassington to Burnsall, and there’s another which is great and that’s walking in Newmillerdam Country Park. I’ve taken many of our dogs there and it’s a wonderful place to clear your head.
Which Yorkshire sportsman or woman would you like to take out for lunch?
I would say Geoffrey Boycott. He’s controversial and forthright. I’d talk to him about the pressures he faced away from cricket and how he coped. In my position, people see you as chairman of a football club and the most stressful part is dealing with the various pressures and the media.
Which Yorkshire actor or actress would you like to take out to dinner?
Sir Patrick Stewart from Mirfield, but it’s his turn to pay and if he reads this he might take the hint. He’s a great supporter of Town and a great individual. He lives in California but Patrick had a house in Grassington, so you can say that home is where the heart is.
Which is your favourite pub or restaurant?
I would say the Three Acres at Emley Moor is one of the best around – and it’s right on my doorstep. I also like the Red Lion at Burnsall and enjoy going there after a walk in the winter.
What’s given you the greatest thrill, getting Huddersfield Town into the Premier League or surviving there in your first season?
Getting promoted to the Premier League I can tell you was so emotional. There was a feeling of disbelief, but we had a plan to stay there, we stuck to it and it came off. We had a lot of luck along the way and with our second season just starting, I’m probably the proudest chairman in the league.
How confident then are you that Huddersfield Town can survive another season? I think we are in for a good season if we keep our passion and humbleness.
Has Huddersfield benefited from the success of its football team?
Absolutely. I think it’s given the town a strong sense of identity again. Huddersfield was world famous for its high-end textiles. Most of the mills have disappeared but there are a few left. It’s a really proud town, it’s a tough place but it’s a wonderful place with wonderful people. I was talking to a textile merchant in Huddersfield and ever since we got promoted his customers all round the world are now more interested because they can link textiles with the Premier League. Whether you like it or not, Premier League football is one of the world’s biggest industries, and every game, home or away, that Huddersfield Town play is broadcast worldwide. So as football is the biggest sport in the world very few people will not have heard of Huddersfield, and I think that is fantastic.
Has Yorkshire changed for the better or worse since you’ve known it?
If I’m honest, it’s becoming more polarised. Leeds is getting stronger as a city, and Bradford, Huddersfield and Halifax are becoming commuter towns. Some people in the Kirklees area are making a living but it can be really very tough. London is getting stronger and politicians at Westminster don’t realise the disparity now between there and parts of Yorkshire.
Do you have a favourite hidden gem in Yorkshire?
The Holme Valley, all those hamlets and weavers’ cottages and the Holme river. Last of the Summer Wine country is tucked away and not many people outside Huddersfield know about it. Going up to Holme Moss on a nice summer’s day is beautiful and I can’t think of anywhere nicer in Yorkshire.
If a stranger came to Yorkshire and you had time to take that person to one place only where would that be?
That would be to the top of the Emley Moor Mast because I’ve never been up there myself. It would be a good excuse to go up and it has to be the most wonderful vista over the whole of Yorkshire. You can see for up to 50 miles in every direction.