Peter Hill-Wood, who served as Arsenal chairman for more than 30 years, has died at the age of 82.
Hill-Wood joined the Arsenal board in 1962 and stepped up to become chairman in 1982, a position he held until he stepped down in 2013 after suffering a heart attack a year previously.
Among his most significant decisions at the helm of the Gunners was the appointment of Arsene Wenger as manager in 1996 – a controversial choice at the time, however the Frenchman went on to be one of the Premier League‘s most successful coaches.
Peter Hill-Wood, who served appointed Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager, has died aged 82
He also appointed George Graham, who led the Gunners to two league titles and several cups
Such is Hill-Wood’s standing in football, Arsenal’s rivals Tottenham Hotspur sent their tribute
Arsenal fans, including Mail Online columnist Piers Morgan, paid tribute to Hill-Wood
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ARSENAL TROPHIES WON UNDER PETER HILL-WOOD
League championships – 5 (1988/89, 1990/91, 1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04)
FA Cups – 5 (1993, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005)
League Cups – 2 (1987, 1993)
1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup
Charity/Community Shield – 4 (1998, 1999, 2002, 2004)
In their statement announcing his death, Arsenal said: ‘It is with deep regret that we announce the death of former chairman Peter Hill-Wood.
‘As we celebrate the unique achievement of 100 consecutive years in the top flight this season, the Hill-Wood family were at the helm for the lion’s share of this special century, a testament to their tenacity and judgment in ensuring we have remained a significant force in English football for so long.
‘Peter and his family’s influence on the club cannot be understated, but at this most difficult time for his family and friends, it is Peter the man who we remember with great fondness. Our thoughts are with his wife Sally and his children Sarah, Julian and Charles.’
Hill-Wood also brought in George Graham as manager – who led the club to two league titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup – as well as sanctioning the move from Highbury to their current home at the Emirates Stadium in 2006.
Under Hill-Wood, Arsenal enjoyed their greatest season – the Invincibles campaign of 2003/04
However it is the appointment of Wenger in 1996 – who had been managing in Japan and was barely known in English football, at a time when foreign managers were rare in the Premier League – for which Hill-Wood will be best remembered.
Wenger went on to guide Arsenal to three Premier League titles – including going through the 2003/04 season unbeaten – and four FA Cups.
Wenger himself remained immensely grateful to the man who trusted him with one of English football’s biggest clubs, paying tribute to Hill-Wood when he stepped down in 2013 following a heart attack and a bout of pneumonia.
The old Etonian also oversaw the move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2006
Hill-Wood was chairman when Arsenal won the 1989 league title in dramatic style
Hill-Wood, with former vice-chairman David Dein, celebrate their 1989 league title triumph
He told the Arsenal club website: ’He is a very brave man who was bold enough at the time to appoint me.’
Hill-Wood carried on a family tradition of involvement at the top of Arsenal – he assumed the role of chairman after the death of his father and predecessor, Denis, while his grandfather Samuel was also chief in two spells between 1927 and 1949. His 2013 retirement ended 84 years of family involvement in the north London club.
He played a pivotal role in the formation of the Premier League in 1992 as a driving force behind the creation of the new English top division, and continued to be regarded as among the game’s leading chairmen until his retirement.
Such is Hill-Wood’s standing in the game, Arsenal’s local rivals Tottenham Hotspur paid tribute to his achievements: ‘We are sorry to hear of the passing of Peter. We send out condolences to Peter’s family and friends at this difficult time.’
Tributes also arrived from Arsenal fans, including Mail Online columnist Piers Morgan, who wrote on Twitter: ‘Sad news. A great Arsenal man who loved, lived and breathed the club in a way Stan Kroenke will never understand.
‘Peter was an old-school, charming guy who ran the club with great style and always provided great copy for journalists if they rang him after a leisurely lunch. RIP.’
In an interview which appeared in an Arsenal match day programme in 2003, the Old Etonian spoke of his desire to modernise both the club he loved.
Hill-Wood joined the Arsenal board in 1962, and served as chairman from 1982 until 2013
He said: ’I remember my father being absolutely horrified at the thought of having perimeter advertising. It was a case of “over my dead body”.
‘We resisted change but now you can’t afford to do that, which is one of the reasons we’re planning to move to a new stadium. Much as we all love Highbury, we cannot sustain a world-class team with a capacity of 38,000.
‘People have questioned the decision to move on, but I’ve been going to Arsenal a lot longer than most.’
On the subject of appointing Wenger, Hill-Wood was adamant that the decision to appoint the Frenchman was never a major risk as it was often portrayed.
He said: ‘Every time you appoint a manager it is a gamble but, oddly enough, I don’t believe that Arsene Wenger was a major gamble.
‘He had already been very successful, he was extremely easy to deal with and had very clear ideas of what he wanted to do.’
Hill-Wood was involved in Arsenal for a total of 51 years, 31 of those as chairman of the club
Hill-Wood stepped down in 2013, with Sir Chips Keswick replacing him as Gunners chairman, which also handed greater influence to majority shareholder Stan Kroenke.
He said at the time: ‘This has been a difficult decision as Arsenal Football Club has been a huge part of my life. Although I am feeling better I feel this is the right time for me to stand down.
‘I would like to thank our majority owner, Stan Kroenke, for the respectful and dignified way he has handled this. I know Sir Chips is the right person to take the club forward.’
Hill-Wood was born in Kensington, London on February 25, 1936, and was educated at Eton.
He enjoyed a starred military career, rising to the rank of lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, before moving into finance, becoming vice-chairman of Hambros Bank.
Hill-Wood joined the Arsenal board in August 1962, along with his father Denis who served as chairman, and following his grandfather Samuel, who led the club between 1927 and 1936, and again between 1939 until his death in 1949.
He succeeded his father as chairman after Denis died in June 1982, and led Arsenal until June 2013, when ill-health forced his retirement – he had suffered a heart attack the previous year, and had also been ill with pneumonia.
Among his greatest decisions were the appointment of some of Arsenal’s most successful managers, including George Graham and Arsene Wenger; a leading role in the formation of the Premier League in 1992; and the move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium in 2006.
He is survived by his wife Sally, and his three children, Sarah, Julian and Charles.
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