Peter Denis Hill-Wood 1936 – 2018
Arsenal director for almost 51 years and chairman for 31 of them – both terms being the longest by any Arsenal director.
Born on 25 February 1936 in Kensington, Peter Hill-Wood would follow his father and grandfather onto the board of Arsenal Football Club, and also emulate their position as chairman.
It always seemed that Peter Hill-Wood was destined to achieve the most senior position at Arsenal as he continued the Hill-Wood dynasty at the club that had started with his grandfather, Sir Samuel Hill-Wood, who had joined Arsenal in 1922 and his father, Denis, who replaced Sir Samuel on the board of directors in 1948.
Peter was educated at Eton, for whom he played football, before serving with the Coldstream Guards. After leaving the Guards he entered the banking industry and eventually rose to the position of vice-chairman at Hambros. As with his father and uncles, Peter was also a useful cricketer.
He was co-opted to the board of directors at Arsenal in September 1962 along with the Reverend Noel Bone. Over the next 20 years he remained very much in the background, with Denis and Bob Wall being the mouthpieces of the club. However, in May 1982 his father died and Peter was elected to succeed him as chairman. The first few years were difficult for the club, and football in general, but he made one decision that had a major impact on Arsenal’s fortunes over the next 30 years. In 1983, along with the other board members, he agreed to sell 1161 unissued shares to David Dein.
Although Hill-Wood remained as chairman, the day-to-day running of the club was taken over by Dein. After a few turbulent years George Graham was appointed as manager which saw the start of a prolonged period of success at the club, which was continued by Arsene Wenger.
Despite the success, Peter was prone to the odd gaffe which fans and shareholders did not always appreciate.
With the club looking to compete with the new money in football in the early part of the twenty first century, a power struggle began to develop in the boardroom. This would see Dein ousted from his position in 2007 having brokered a deal that saw Stan Kroenke purchase a significant number of shares in the club. At the time Hill-Wood was not impressed, famously stating:
Call me old-fashioned but we don’t need Kroenke’s money and we don’t want his sort. Our objective is to keep Arsenal English, albeit with a lot of foreign players. I don’t know for certain if Kroenke will mount a hostile takeover for our club but we shall resist it with all our might.
However, four years later Hill-Wood sold his remaining shares to Kroenke, and advised other shareholders to do the same, in an attempt to keep Alisher Usmanov from obtaining a controlling stake in Arsenal FC.
Having suffered a heart attack in December 2012 he stepped down as chairman on 14 June 2013, thus ending 91 years of the Hill-Woods at Arsenal. He was honoured with a bust which is on display in the entrance to the directors’ lounge at the Emirates Stadium.
Peter Hill-Wood passed away late in the evening on 27 December 2018.
If you want to find out more about the Hill-Wood family’s involvement with The Arsenal, you can take a look at these two articles that we wrote in 2016: