Sir Martin Broughton’s colourful life and business career is detailed in his recently published memoir, Whenever I Hear That Song, which charts his rise from a working- class background in west London and early days as a chartered accountant to high-flying positions with British American Tobacco (BAT) and British Airways. As Chairman of the British Horseracing Board he came close to securing a new funding mechanism for the sport, while his brief tenure in the same role at Liverpool FC saw an intense court battle over the sale of the club. Sir Martin’s familiar red and green silks have been carried by the likes of Champion Chase victor Dodging Bullets, yet he missed out on buying three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Best Mate and was also luckless in his quest to acquire the Tote and his beloved Chelsea FC.
It was an interesting process to write the book but I don’t think you could say it was cathartic. Some of the facts you can check, some of it’s just your memories. But I really enjoyed doing it. My wife, Jocelyn, had always lamented the fact that she didn’t ask her parents enough questions before they died. So, I thought, why not write the book and put it out there? It was when I was lying in hospital after an operation to treat a pulmonary embolism that I decided the time was right to record my life story. Writing a book is a bit like owning a horse; you don’t do it to make a profit. But if you can make some money for charity, it’s a good thing.
Wherever you go in the world people are interested in football, so in some ways the common language is football. Having had a strong interest in the game, there was always a subject you can come back to where you felt on home territory. Fortunately, in most of the places I went to with BAT, they did speak English. That wasn’t the case in Brazil or Argentina – in South America football is certainly the common language.
Aviation is about the last remaining major industry which hasn’t consolidated. If you look at consumer goods, tobacco and mining, those individual companies around the world have merged and you finish up with a Unilever, BAT or Rio Tinto. That hasn’t happened in aviation – it’s inevitable it goes down that route at some stage.
The tobacco industry is amazingly resilient although a lot of people think the business has disappeared. In the south-east of England not many people smoke and there’s a move towards vaping. But around the world, where it declines around 2% per annum, it’s still an enormous industry. When you have a dangerous product, it needs to be in the hands of responsible people.
Did I ever get over missing out on owning Best Mate? Because I loved Hen [Knight] and Terry [Biddlecombe], I certainly felt very happy at their success. I just always struggled to see him in Jim’s [Lewis] colours! I think I got over it seriously when Dodging Bullets won the Champion Chase in 2015. To win a Grade 1 at Cheltenham, I felt like I’d got there and done it.
I’d say Dodge’s win in the Champion Chase tops everything, while his win in the Tingle Creek was also special. Another big day was Taquin Du Seuil’s win in the JLT at the Festival, while Oscar Time, my first ever runner in the Grand National [co-owned with twin brother Steve and Robert Waley- Cohen] just about got his nose in front at the elbow before finishing runner-up to Ballabriggs. We still celebrated like we’d won the race, as to finish second was a huge achievement.
Not winning the bid for the Tote is like losing a race – you turn your attention to something else and look for the next opportunity. I’m delighted that Alex [Frost] took it on and I think he’s doing a good job – at last it’s heading in the right direction. Fred [Done] was never interested in the pool, he was interested in the shops. It lacked TLC over a seven-year period – it takes a long time to recover from that lack of investment. The British public isn’t really used to pool betting and I’m not sure it will ever be a big part of the scene, but I think it will continue on a slow growth trajectory.
Very few people are lucky enough to make a difference at a national phenomenon – Liverpool and Manchester United, in global terms, are the two most recognised and best supported teams. To get an opportunity to make a difference at a club like Liverpool was great. We had two viable bidders for the club; you make your decision – you think you’ve made the right call, but you don’t know for sure – and it’s only later you can say you got it right.
We put together a £2.5 billion package in 20 days to buy Chelsea and made it to the final two or three contenders. My son Michael and I were disappointed we weren’t successful, though my wife and daughter were very happy! And it’s easy to see why – our life would have been completely transformed. We’re pleased we had a go – we were fronting a bid for the fans and I think it would have been a good thing for the club.
I’ve got eight horses with Paul [Nicholls], four with Jonjo [O’Neill] plus Peking Rose with Fergal [O’Brien]. Irish Hill, a recent winner at Ascot is entered for both the Coral Cup and Martin Pipe while Sir Psycho is also entered in the Martin Pipe. But the one I’m most excited about is Henri The Second. He’s a chaser really, so to win a Grade 2 over hurdles suggests he has a big future over fences.
Whenever I Hear That Song, priced at £20, is available to buy at nineelmsbooks.co.uk. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Retraining of Racehorses.