Surrey are mourning David Stewart OBE, the only man to hold all three positions of Treasurer, Chairman and President in the Club’s history, who has died aged 79.
Richard Spiller looks back on his contribution to the Club.
In the modern history of Surrey County Cricket Club, few figures have been as influential as David Stewart.
Not that you would have guessed it from his ever-cheerful and bright presence, given he wore his responsibilities with typical modesty, but without hitting or bowling a ball he made an enormous contribution to the club’s development.
Joining Surrey’s general committee in the winter of 1995-96, as the club recovered from a prolonged period of turbulence, Stewart assumed the key role of treasurer in 1997 and succeeded Mike Soper’s transformational eight-year chairmanship in 2003.
Working in tandem with chief executive Paul Sheldon over the next seven years, he oversaw the massive development of the then OCS Stand which ensured that by the time he handed over to Richard Thompson in 2010, Surrey’s turnover had swelled by around 10 times since his arrival. Stewart then became president in 2017-18 to complete a unique hat-trick.
“In a league of his own,” was Thompson’s description of his predecessor and friend while Sheldon explained his role in expanding the club’s financial footprint.
“As treasurer and then chairman, David took the lead in establishing the staging agreement for international cricket which was the basis for us to secure the money we needed to build the OCS Stand.
“He appreciated more than anyone else that it was the foundation we would build on and showed how clearly he could see ahead.
“I used to call him Solomon because he was the wisest man I ever met.”
The unglamorous but essential work which goes into running a modern-day sporting institution requires all manner of expertise and Stewart’s forensic tax skills and financial knowhow – he had been a leading player in the merger of Coopers & Lybrand with Price Waterhouse to form the giant PwC – were a key ingredient in steering Surrey’s off-field development, although success on it was elusive once Adam Hollioake’s buccaneering team broke up after their final triumphs in 2003.
Sheldon added: “Without David, Surrey would not be the thriving club it is now. I owe him a great personal debt for his quiet, sensitive and pragmatic leadership. It was a pleasure to serve as his CEO and I’m enormously proud of what we achieved.
“He was a man of great wisdom, kindness, commercial judgement and astuteness. He never sought the limelight or took credit for his many achievements – he had the best interests of Surrey and the game of cricket at the forefront of everything he did and said.
“Beyond all his contributions, he just loved watching Surrey play cricket.”
Stewart was regarded by many as an excellent fit for the chairmanship of the ECB in 2007 but chose not to stand. It was Surrey’s gain.
His work as chairman of Haig Homes, a charity which provides housing for ex-servicemen in the UK and Channel Islands, was rewarded by the OBE.
David Stewart leaves his wife Judy, daughter Susie and two grandchildren.