Barry Hearn steps down as Matchroom Sport boss after almost 40 years with son Eddie replacing legendary promoter

BARRY HEARN, Britain’s leading sports promoter, has retired with immediate effect and is stepping down as chairman of Matchroom Sport.

The 72-year-old has been at the forefront of top-level sport in the UK for the past four decades, transforming Steve Davis, Phil Taylor, Chris Eubank and Anthony Joshua into prime-time sporting royalty.

The announcement he will move away from day-to-day operational duties comes more than a year after he suffered a “mild heart attack” and underwent emergency surgery to insert two stents. It is also just six months since he was struck down with Covid.

Hearn, a chartered accountant, established Matchroom Sport in April 1982 and the organisation globally promotes darts, snooker, boxing, fishing, pool, tenpin bowling and golf.

Son Eddie, 41, will take over the running of the company as its new chairman – which includes responsibility for PDC darts and PGA EuroPro golf – but he will retain his influential and powerful role as the head of boxing.

Hearn’s daughter Katie will remain in charge of the recently-launched Matchroom Media.

Steve Dawson, CEO of World Snooker Limited, will take over running of snooker after the conclusion of the 2021 Betfred World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.

Hearn will now become group president in an advisory role and he said: “It has been a huge honour to have worked with some of the greatest sports people on the planet across the last 40 years.

“I’ve enjoyed so many wonderful experiences across our spectrum of events in that time, from snooker’s glory days of the 1980s to record-breaking boxing shows and the incredible growth of professional darts. We have created opportunities for thousands of sportsmen and women during that time.

“I’d been determined to stay in charge until this Covid disaster passed. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel, I believe it’s the right time to pass control of Matchroom to my son Eddie and the brilliant teams we’ve assembled across all our activities.

“Now is the time to give all Matchroom employees the opportunity to take this great British company to the next level and beyond”.”

Barry Maurice William Hearn, the son of a bus driver and a cleaner, was born in June 1948 and grew up in a post-war working-class council house in Dagenham, Essex.

According to the 2020 edition of the Sunday Times, his family wealth is estimated to be £158million.

It was in the smoky snooker and billiards halls of Romford in the 1970s where he spotted the talents of a fresh-faced, shy Steve Davis.

A friendship and relationship developed there that would define both their lives and spark the halcyon days of the sport.

On Easter Monday 1981, a sporting empire began when the 23-year-old Davis beat Doug Mountjoy 18-12 in the World Snooker Championship final at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield. It was the first of six world titles and he dominated the baize throughout the 1990s.

I’ve enjoyed so many wonderful experiences across our spectrum of events in that time, from snooker’s glory days of the 1980s to record-breaking boxing shows and the incredible growth of professional darts.

From there, the irrepressible entrepreneur moved into the world of boxing, locking horns with Don King and Frank Warren and promoting fights involving Eubank, Nigel Benn, Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno and Joe Bugner.

However it is the riches surrounding the emergence of Joshua as a heavyweight world champion this past decade which have swelled the coffers of a company that avoided bankruptcy during the recession of the early 1990s.

Hearn supported Leyton Orient since the age of 11 and owned the club for 19 years, overseeing their promotion as chairman to League One in 2006.

Yet he was often criticised by fans during his tenure for not overspending to improve the team and he later regretted selling the club in 2014 to businessman Francesco Becchetti.

Awarded the OBE in the 2021 New Year Honours List for services to sport, opinionated and controversial Hearn retained the salesman chatter throughout his career, happily dishing out one-liners for the media and snappy soundbites to boost ticket sales.

Though he won’t completely disappear from public life – officially he will advise on “group strategy and global expansion” – Hearn plans to spend more time with his four grandchildren.

Other hobbies include playing golf, fishing at the lake at the bottom of his home and padding up this summer for East Hanningfield over-70s cricket XI in Essex.

Hearn is working on an autobiography which will be out later this year and according to those involved, it tells the definitive and astonishing account of his life.

Eddie said: “Anyone that knows me is well aware of what Matchroom means to me and our family.

“It has a legacy that spans 40 years from a small office under a snooker hall in Romford to a global powerhouse of sports entertainment.

“My father has dedicated his life to the company and since I joined in 2004 I have done the same.

“Now a greater responsibility falls on my shoulders and I am very proud to continue his great work and lead the business and the incredible team that we have built at Matchroom.”

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