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Karren Brady at The Savoy

Karren Brady at The Savoy

In her first weeks as managing director of Birmingham City Football Club, Karren Brady looked for the directors' box, only to be repeatedly told: "Ah, wives of directors go to the ladies' box through there." Finally, she was recognised: "Oh, you're that woman. Stay here and I'll find out what to do with you."

More than 200 guests at Tuesday's UJIA Women's Division lunch heard Ms Brady, now vice-chairman of West Ham United, recall her early days as a lone woman in the male-dominated industry. By turns funny and frank, Ms Brady, also Lord Sugar's right-hand woman on BBC1's The Apprentice, painted a deft portrait of her career in football administration.

"One Friday," she recalled, "I saw an advert in the Financial Times - football club for sale. I was 23. I went to my boss and said: 'Why don't we buy the club and I'll run it?'" By Monday, the deed was done.

Despite the man from the Sunday People asking for her vital statistics at her inaugural press conference, Ms Brady applied hard-learned business practice to the club. "I should point out that I don't wear a tracksuit. I wear a suit."

In 1993, the club was mired in debt. By the time it was sold for £85 million in 2009, it was debt-free and had made £6.5 million profit. Now she hopes to do the same for West Ham, where Avram Grant was dismissed following relegation to the Championship.

Held at The Savoy, the lunch raised £110,000, a 10 per cent increase on last year, for UJIA educational work with young people at home and in Israel.

    Last updated: 1:41pm, May 26 2011