Ipswich owner Marcus Evans has built huge fortune but ducks limelight
Marcus Evans is a multi-millionaire businessman who is notorious for his aversion to the limelight.
But he is no stranger to influential figures in Irish sporting life. Both Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy have worked for him. And his company, THG, was a prominent actor in the sale of hospitality packages in the early days of the Aviva Stadium.
Evans has amassed a substantial fortune dating back to the launch of a company named Assisted Promotions in the early 1980s. The business grew by moving into the area of corporate hospitality at major sports and entertainment events.
In 1992, the name changed to The Hospitality Group (THG) which now exists as a wing of the Marcus Evans Group, an empire that offers many services.
Its website describes the company's activities as follows:
"A global, multifaceted media, corporate marketing and information company, employing 3,000 professionals in 59 worldwide locations.
"Our activities are wide ranging, providing up-to-the-minute information for businesses and professionals worldwide. Our summit and conference divisions deliver the latest technical and cultural skills training through our professional training divisions.
"We assist corporate marketers by providing exclusive facilities to support their key account marketing programmes linked to 5-star private hospitality clubs and lounges run by our THG division at the world's leading sports events such as the Olympics."
Evans is the brains behind the operation. Yet it was his move to purchase English Championship side Ipswich Town in 2007 that propelled him into the news pages. It was then that reporters in the East Anglia area realised there were precious few photographs of Evans available because of his desire to keep a low profile.
The Englishman was hailed as a sharp businessman who had left school before completing his A levels and dedicated himself to entrepreneurial endeavours. He was hailed as a man that would bring Ipswich to the Premier League. But, in a rare interview last year, he confessed that he did expect success "to happen far easier".
In April 2009, he made a big statement by appointing Keane as manager. In the Corkman's latest autobiography 'The Second Half', he detailed a private meeting with Evans at his house in The Boltons, in Chelsea. "I liked Marcus," said Keane, "I thought I'd be able to work with him."
But the move didn't work out for either party. CEO Simon Clegg was largely the middle man between Evans and Keane and poor results led to his departure less than two years later. In his book, Keane noted that he'd never been in the same room with Evans and Clegg.
Keane's old foe McCarthy was appointed by Evans in November 2012 and he steered them away from relegation trouble to turn them into promotion contenders. They reached the promotion play-offs in 2015.
However, a noticeable feature of his tenure has been the lack of investment in players compared with other teams in the same division. Ipswich fans believe that Evans should be digging deeper into his pockets to compete with the big boys.
THG's links to Irish football go beyond Keane and McCarthy. When the Aviva Stadium was opened in 2010, it became a hospitality partner with the FAI. When the association was struggling to sell its 10-year premium level tickets, one source of comfort was that THG had assumed control for the corporate facilities in the South Stand, doing a deal which meant it would incur the risk if the seats were empty.
But earlier this month, the FAI distanced itself from THG, stating it no longer worked with Evans's company.