Mr Thompson had been fighting prostate cancer for several years, but despite specialist treatment from the management and staff of the oncology department at Ninewells Hospital, the cancer could not be prevented from spreading. Over the last year, the aggressive nature of his illness required further and debilitating treatments. Despite this, Mr Thompson continued to undertake his duties at Tannadice, continuing to provide personal and financial support to the Club.
In recent months, when it became clear that his health was failing, Mr Thompson re-structured the finances, share ownership and the Board of Dundee United to ensure that the long term future of the Club remained secure with his son Stephen taking on day to day responsibilities as Chief Executive.
Although hospitalised for much of the time in recent weeks, the Chairman was determined to see his beloved Dundee United and, despite his worsening condition, insisted on supporting the team in person as much as possible, both home and away.
Everyone at Dundee United is devastated by the loss of someone who was not only our Chairman, but also a very close and inspirational friend.
Eddie Thompson was born in Glasgow in 1940 and trained as an accountant before moving to Dundee in 1964 to join Watson & Philip plc. He was appointed to the Watson & Philip Board in 1976, becoming joint managing director.
In 1991, he left Watson & Philip Ltd to form Morning Noon & Night Ltd, an innovative convenience store chain. MN&N was one of the first retail outlets to install Bank ATMs, now a common sight in the retail trade. In August 2004, MN&N was sold to Scotmid in one of the largest Scottish retail deals for some years. At the time of sale MN&N was generating yearly sales of £53m with operating profits of £1.8m from 50 outlets and employed some 800 people throughout Scotland.
Eddie was appointed as the first Chairman of the Scottish Retail Consortium in April 1999, and served on the British Retail Consortium’s Board of Management. He was President of the Scottish Grocers’ Federation and sat on the CBI Council for Scotland. He was awarded the Scottish Grocery Lifetime Achievement award in 2003, and received an OBE in December 2005.
Despite these business achievements, Eddie Thompson will always be best known for his love of Dundee United.
He first started supporting the Club on moving to Dundee and his time at Watson & Philip resulted in the VG shirt sponsorship in the late 1980s. He was always keen to provide the Club with the benefit of his business knowledge and contacts and was a founder member of the Dundee United Business Club.
In September 2002, Mr Thompson acquired a shareholding in Dundee United by purchasing the shares of former Chairman Jim McLean. By the end of that month he had acquired a majority shareholding and became owner and Chairman of Dundee United FC.
True to his word, one of the first initiatives approved by Mr Thompson was the issue of new shares to supporters who wished to make individual purchases. He also assisted the establishment of ArabTRUST, the Dundee United Supporters Trust, for collective share ownership by fans. Outwith the Thompson family, ArabTRUST is now the second largest shareholder in Dundee United.
Since then Eddie Thompson has invested millions of pounds of his own money into the Club and has seen losses reduced from record levels of £2.7m in June 2003, to £498k in June 2007 and turned into an operating profit by June 2008. Never slow to admit when mistakes had been made, he also personally funded exceptional termination costs when required to do so.
His fierce loyalty and financial commitment to Dundee United won him much admiration throughout the Scottish game and he was seen as a “champion” of the smaller clubs on the SPL Board, upon which he served from its inception.
Despite his financial and personal commitment to the Club, he always saw himself as a supporter first and foremost and was always first to acknowledge that the fans were the true owners and most important part of the Club. He was quoted as saying, “You can change your wife, your house, your car, but you can never change your team. Chairmen come and go, Boards come and go, but the fans remain. They are the one true constant. I’ve just been a custodian of the Club.”
He was genuinely moved when one of the stands at Tannadice was named after him earlier this year, following suggestions made by supporters and also when thousands of United fans wore “One Eddie Thompson” tee shirts at this year’s CIS Cup Final.
Eddie Thompson is survived by his wife Cath, children Justine and Stephen and four grandchildren.
He will be greatly missed by everyone associated with Dundee United and our thoughts are with Cath and his family at this sad time.
The family would like to thank all the staff at Ninewells Hospital and in particular the staff of Ward 32 who have been fantastic over many many weeks.
This is an extremely difficult time for the Thompson family with the recent tragic death of Mr. Thompson’s son-in-law, Ken Mitchell and the family have requested that they are left to grieve in private.
Anyone who wishes details of funeral arrangements should contact Dundee United Football Club on 01382 833166.