Birmingham City co-owner David Sullivan says he is in a race against time to achieve his objectives. Neil Connor visits him at his Essex mansion to explore what's left for a man who seems to have it all
As I began looking around David Sullivan's office in his impressive £7.5 million Essex mansion my first concern was that the interview was not going to last very long.
Before my first question, Sullivan was robustly directing orders of what was to come: "You'll have to forgive me but don't want to show you around the house as I have not got much time. It is all about time isn't it. I had a quadruple heart bypass operation a few years ago and I don't know how long I have got left."
The Blues co-owner was not hurrying me because he fears he is about to collapse on the desk in front of him, it's just that Sullivan believes in getting as much done as humanly possible in the shortest space of time.
"You have always been in a hurry," I complain, in response to his early grumble.
"You were a millionaire by the time you were 30."
"24, actually", said Sullivan in a flash, as I began to sink into my chair and actually hope for a quick exit.
But my early apprehension soon turned into joy.
Over the course of the next hour I got to know the 'real' David Sullivan. How? Because their is no 'unreal' or other side to the occasionally controversial, but always honest Blues chairman.
"My problem is that I am honest and straight-forward. I have never ducked a question in my life," says Sullivan
"I am not saying what is politically correct or what I should say," he adds, in a more direct manner than Alan Sugar could ever dream of in the popular reality TV jobhunting programme The Apprentice.
In recent weeks Sullivan, aged 56, has criticised not only his own footballers, but also civic leaders in Birmingham for their lack of ambition and drive.
It is almost as if Sullivan has no respect for people who do not share his pursuit of power, prestige and and wealth. But on closer examination, that does not seem to be the case.
"I have got very very high moral standards in terms of my own life," he said.
"I also believe I have to respect other people and treat them as equals.
"I will always sign autographs and stand for pictures. I will always reply to letters. I do not like alcohol. I have never smoked a cigarette or took a drug that was not for medicinal purposes."
It was fascinating unravelling the real Sullivan, who openly admits he has had "a very interesting life, with lots
of naughty stories".
Born in a small town near Cardiff, he moved to Essex as a child where he quickly developed his entrepreneurial instincts.
During the 1970s, Sullivan built up his reputation as "the Sultan of Sleaze" as he made his fortune through a nationwide chain of 'adult shops', porn magazines and adult film making.
Sullivan's company, Roldvale, has a portfolio that, apart from the Private chain, includes publishing, chat lines, property and racehorses.
He bought Birmingham
City, with his business partners David and Ralph Gold, in 1993 after the club went through a 'turbulent' period under the Kumar brothers. He had previously looked at Cardiff, Watford, Bradford, Leeds and Tottenham.
Sullivan, who is worth about £550 million, may be one of the most respected businessmen in football, but he is also one the games most enthusiastic commentators. He has strong opinions on virtually everything and is keen to share them.
He said he has enjoyed turning around the fortunes of Birmingham, who were on the brink of going out of existence before his consortium stepped in.
"It was really desperate for a while as we had just lost out on the ITV digital cash, but then we got out of the old Division Three and things got better and better, " he said nostalgically.
"I have only missed six away games in the 12 years that I have been involved with Birmingham and I have never missed a home game", he added.
"I do not see how I can ask the fans to attend games if I do not attend myself."
The other aspects of Sullivan life have reportedly been packed into a new biography.
That should be an interesting read, I say invitingly. But my hopes are quickly dashed.
"It is absolute crap," he said. "There is no biography being written about me despite what the national papers say. But if there was it would probably say: 'He had a fun and interesting life. He had a go at most things - and was lucky in a few of them."
Something tells me there is plenty of time left for David Sullivan to try his luck at much more things - and still come out the winner.