‘Butcher’s lad’ turned football club co-owning venture capitalist – Andrew Pettit in his own words

He’s jokingly described as the butcher’s lad beside the tech entrepreneur at the helm of Grimsby Town – but it was abacus not carcass that whet Andrew Pettit’s business appetite.

Today will see Pettits Lincolnshire Sausages sold at Blundell Park for the first time, a shrewd piece of promotion of the family favourite on Great Grimsby Day – but it represents a first foray into three previous generations’ work since counting up the takings at the sadly lost Bethlehem Street till many moons ago.

Now vice chairman of his beloved Mariners, he gave an insight into his journey from turnstile to boardroom, to a business audience in advance of the bangers’ debut.

Read more: Grimsby Town’s plans for a new stadium are on ice

“I’m a bit squeamish, I don’t like the sight of blood, so even though I was perhaps the natural person to take over, back in the Seventies I chose to count the money on a Saturday – and that led me down a financial path,” said the venture capitalist who Jason Stockwood said has had a “better career than me”.

He told the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce gathering that he “worked very hard” at the “august institute” that was Hereford School, becoming the first of the family to go to university, and modestly puts his career-defining choices down to good fortune from thereon in.

“I got lucky; lucky I chose law and French to study, because being able to speak French gave me the chance of an interview at Clifford Chance – the only real interview I ever had,” he said.

It is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious London-based multinational law firms.

Andrew Pettit, right, and Jason Stockwood cast their eyes over a training session at the Cheapside training complex. (Image: Jon Corken)

“I met my wife there, who happened to be a property lawyer, and I became attracted to property for other reasons to most. I qualified in property when the Nineties recession hit, a pretty bad time, everyone was going to banking and finance and I went to property, which was also lucky.”

For following bust comes boom, and it has barely looked back since.

He would frequently be sent out to other firms too, spending six months with Airbus in France, then the infamous Lehman Brothers.

“I went there in the mid-Nineties, went back to Clifford Chance, but got a call from my former boss saying ‘come and join us’.”

Leaving the practice of law behind, he was asked to “go figure out the French distressed loan market,” he did, made a stack of cash, and was elevated to partner.

He quickly tired of the politics that came with the position though, heading for the door four years before its demise signalled the financial crash of the late Noughties.

“I decided I had to work for my own business, and started Revcap up, a real estate private equity business. It has been going for 18 years, we do property deals all over Europe. I never ever wanted to work for anyone else, now we have 50 people, offices in London, Paris, Stockholm, and invest for investors around the world from the teachers of Texas to Middle East royal families, and I really enjoy doing that.

“What identified me, all the way through my career, was being from Grimsby, being a Grimsby Town fan. That identity, looking back and looking forward, was something I wanted to capitalise on. And when the opportunity came up to work with Tom (Shutes), to provide a platform to give back, it was what I wanted to do.”

He’d seen the philanthropist with vague connections to the town spell his vision out in a Grimsby Telegraph article, got his number and told him of his background and interest. Mr Stockwood was also on board, and the pair were introduced – “serendipity” as it has been described.

Jason Stockwood, left, and Andrew Pettit with Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce president Phil Jones, centre, as the pair hosted members of the Grimsby business community. (Image: Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce)

Mr Shutes stepped back close to the deal to buy-out John Fenty being finalised – a deal that “there’s a book in there somewhere” – but it is clear the duo have blossomed, and while not completely aligned, share many values.

“Grimsby Town is part of my identity. I first came in 1974/75 season and I’ve been coming ever since,” he said, adding: “that’s despite a wife who is a Leeds fan and a son who is an Arsenal fan – they still indulged me by coming with me on many occasions.”

On taking the plunge, from fan to custodian, he said: “I never wanted to own a football club – I’ve come across a few people who have, who said it was a bad idea, and certainly a bad idea economically and for other reasons as well, but my interest got sparked when our ‘empty chair’ our third, Tom Shutes, put forward in the Grimsby Telegraph his vision for the town and the club.”

Should it all go horribly wrong then the newspaper could feel some pangs of guilt, with this article’s author having half-jokingly floated the idea of getting on board to Mr Stockwood when interviewed about a huge tech sale a few years back, and his love of the club was made crystal clear.

“In the end Tom didn’t persevere but it has worked out really well, we have fantastic complementary skill sets,” Mr Pettit said of the working relationship, as he brings property and finance to the fore.

“Jason is about communication, culture building and clear commercial acumen. It is a fantastic cocktail for the club.”

Praising the efforts of early appointment chief executive Debbie Cook, arriving from senior roles in the town with Seafish and YMCA, he told how the constant scrutiny from the fanbase was different to quarterly shareholder briefings.

“The public responsibility of being custodian of an institution that is 144 years old is immense,” he said. I think we both underestimated that.”

Stating it was about “small incremental changes to make a big difference,” he said: “We want to improve the football side and that creates a virtuous flywheel.

“When football goes well ,everyone feels good, it helps everyone. It brings together people from very disparate groups and ages, it is a very unusual animal. We want to create shared memories, success, a feeling of occasion and community.

“We want to create a place where everyone feels welcome, everyone has a sense of inclusivity, a civic institution and a club people are proud to be associated with and work with.”

Tony Ford’s contribution and Wayne Burnett’s Wembley golden goal are key memory markers, while John McAtee’s sublime strike last Saturday is etching itself in there too.

You sense they, as much as the many more who make their way to Blundell Park, look forward to what comes next.

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