Ages ago there was a rumour about one of Bates' kids being put in charge, with Ken still as owner, only he'd stay in Monaco (...for about a week, before he got bored, I'd reckon). Anyway, he has five kids from his first marriage - three daughters, two sons - and the likeliest candidate seemed to be Robert. I found this interview with Robert Bates from the Daily Mail in 1998, and concluded that I would personally
if Bobby Kennedy - sorry, I mean Bobby Bates - was put in charge, simply for the Shakespearean drama that would then ensue. To say Robert has 'daddy issues' is putting it mildly.
WHY MY FATHER HAS REJECTED ME; His father 'owns' Chelsea FC and is worth £40m. But Robert Bates was jailed for drink-driving. Now, for the first time, he tells the remarkable story of how despite all their wealth his family have been ripped apart...
ROBERT BATES, the eldest son of Chelsea Football Club chairman Ken Bates, has lived in his father's shadow all his life. The two men have always had a difficult relationship, which has oscillated between outright war, an uneasy truce and the occasional oasis of peace.
In the summer of 1989, Robert, at the time vice-chairman of his father's Premier League football club, was caught for speeding and found to be nearly five times over the legal drink-drive limit.
He was sent to prison and resigned from Chelsea. He subsequently attended a drying out clinic, then fled the country. Robert, 41, returned to London a few weeks ago a sober and wiser man, but estranged from his father. Having yearned for his approval all his life, he claims he no longer needs or wants it.
'I've realised that whatever I do, I'm never going to be good enough for him,' he says with a resigned sigh. It would, of course, be understandable for Bates senior to feel somewhat disappointed with his son.
Robert has never talked before about his self-made millionaire father, but now feels sufficiently strong to speak, he says, without bitterness or blame.
The crux of the problem seems to be that for most of his life, he has had low self-esteem and felt he had no separate identity from his father.
'My name seemed to be "This-is-Ken-Bates's-son",' he says. 'It's why I self-destructed.' His story is an unnerving, cautionary tale of the decline of a sensitive, unhappy boy into alcoholism. It centres on the different expectations of a father and son, and the significance of both material wealth and parental time.
CERTAINLY, the two men could hardly be more different. Ken is twice divorced, has an estimated £40million fortune and a reputation for being tough and brusque. He dislikes talking about anything personal and rarely says three words when two will do.
Robert, on the other hand, who is a product of Ken's first marriage, is gentle and vulnerable, and seems happiest talking about emotions.
He is slim, darkly handsome and married to Bella, whom he has known since they were children. They have four children Corinna, 19, Victoria, 12, Melinda, ten, and Oliver five. He is scraping a living in the motor business.
As Bates's second child, but first son, he was born on March 5,1957, in Wigan and, one can assume, was the object of his father's aspirations. He has three sisters and a brother. Three of them live in Ireland near their mother, Teresa. When Robert looks back on his childhood, he remembers his mother as 'very loving' and his father rarely being at home. Although Robert had much that money could buy, he lacked one thing it can't - time with his dad. 'I was a sensitive, small boy and affected by not having him around. I used to silently cry out to him: "Spare me some time and I will try to be more like you." ' From an early age he was well aware of his father's success.
Following a tough childhood, Bates senior had bought his first Bentley at 23, a year after his marriage. At 32, he had made enough money from his ready-mixed concrete business to retire. 'Even as a small child, I knew he'd produced an enormous amount
of material wealth,' says Robert. 'Not surprisingly, money became my obsession and I grew up thinking that's what life was all about. Now, I know nothing is further from the truth.' Sadly, life was not always idyllic when his father was around. 'He often spoilt his time with us by being angry. Even when I was little he would explode if I was too noisy in the morning and woke him.
HE BELIEVES in the saying "divide and conquer" and always made his feelings about one of us known to the rest of the family. I tried to keep my head down and avoid the flak, but he demolished my ego.
'Having made so much money so young, he was unanswerable to anyone. He was used to having everything exactly as he wanted it at work and expected us to toe the line at home, too. He had a tremendous capacity to be charming, but I always felt his love had to be earned. It was never given unconditionally.'
The family was also constantly on the move. 'We didn't know whether we were coming or going,' he says. At five, Robert went to the local state school near the family home in Chorley, Lancashire.
When he was eight, the family moved to an 18-bedroom mansion in Cheshire and Robert was sent to boarding school in Oxford. 'My father wanted to use some of his wealth to give us the best possible education.' Two years later, home became the Virgin Islands. 'My father sold his concrete business for a lucrative amount and decided to get involved over there. We moved from our huge mansion with en suite bathrooms to live in a caravan with no running water or electricity while a house was built.' At 13, Robert started at Eton and the family moved again - this time to Ireland. Robert became increasingly unhappy: 'I didn't feel I fitted in at home or at Eton. I kept asking myself: "What am I? Who am I?" ' It is, of course, a common enough teenage cry, but one that was perhaps magnified for Robert by the fact that, by now, his father was 'never there'.
He tried to drown his feelings with drink. 'From the age of 15, most Saturday nights I and a few friends at Eton got blind drunk on champagne, which was surprisingly easy to get.' It was at this crucial time that he also became aware of difficulties in his parents' marriage. 'My father asked me to meet him at a London hotel,' he explains.
'I arrived early and asked for him at reception. I was told he wasn't there, but that "Mrs Bates" was. But the woman they pointed to was not my mother. She left before my father arrived, and I didn't say a word to him. It was horrible.' The woman in question was Pam, who became Bates's second wife in June 1983. The marriage lasted 13 years. Ken Bates is now close to journalist Suzannah Dwyer.
Bates senior divorced his first wife when Robert was 18 and in his A-level year. He scraped three passes, but didn't get good enough grades to go to his chosen college, Trinity in Dublin. He began his retakes, but went travelling instead. He returned to London two years later and got a job with a coach company in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
The following year, 1982, his father bought Chelsea for £1, taking on £1 million of debts. A year later, he asked Robert to work for him at Chelsea on the commercial side.
'My father was quite anxious about whether the club would be a success and wanted someone he could trust. I thought it would be a way of getting closer to him.' Their working relationship started well. 'He left me alone and I brought in sponsors that included British Telecom, Renault, Volkswagen and British Airways.
The turnover went up to £1 million within the first 18 months.' WITH his fortune looking set, Robert married Bella in 1984. She was two years his junior and the sister of a friend. 'Bella had married very young and was a widow with a two-year-old daughter Corinna, who I have brought up as my own.' Their first home was Robert's luxury flat in Eaton Square, Belgravia. In 1986 he bought a farmhouse in Buckinghamshire.
On the surface life seemed good. 'I had a BMW and a boat at Brighton marina.' By this time, however, his drinking had taken a stranglehold. 'I had to do a lot of entertaining at Chelsea, which was the perfect excuse.' Of equal significance was his inability to cope with his father's powerful shadow, which seemed to loom over him constantly. 'Wherever I went, I was introduced as if I was an extension of him.' He felt both inferior and in the wrong job. By 1988, a year before he was arrested, he was desperately unhappy. His drinking had increased to at least two bottles of spirits a day. 'I sometimes tried to stop, but my body was so dependent on alcohol that I had a fit if didn't drink for any length of time.' He had three fits in all, one of which involved a stay in hospital. 'I now know you can't cure alcoholism with willpower alone. I even plucked up courage to tell my father I was an alcoholic. He wasn't particularly sympathetic, but suggested I saw a hypnotherapist.' Robert had been in Manchester on business on the fateful day he was arrested in June 1989. He had decided to drive home even though he had been drinking heavily. His Volkswagen Passat was stopped in the early hours on the M6. He'd been driving at around 135mph and swerving from lane to lane.
A breath test gave him an alcohol reading of 151mg. The limit is 35. JAILED for two months, he was sent to Shrewsbury prison, but moved after two weeks. 'The governor got fed up with people whistling Match Of The Day whenever they saw me and said my presence was disruptive.' He spent the rest of his sentence at Featherstone jail, Wolverhampton.
He immediately resigned from Chelsea. His father, perhaps understandably, showed little sympathy. 'He visited me once with some papers he wanted me to sign. He showed no compassion and thought I had brought great shame on the family.
'I'm not ashamed of being an alcoholic. Nor am I proud of it. It wasn't a goal. It's just something I am.' When Robert was released, he went straight to an off-licence to start drinking again. He then 'suddenly realised' he had to get help.
Two weeks later, he entered the £973 a week Clouds House rehabilitation centre near Salisbury, Wiltshire. He stayed for eight weeks, then spent a month at a halfway house. 'I have,' he says proudly, 'never wanted to drink anything since.' Facing the real world again was not easy. 'I felt very vulnerable, like a crab with a new shell. I had no confidence, or self-belief and I didn't know what to do.' It was around that time that Lloyd's of London collapsed. Ken Bates had made all of his children Lloyd's names when they were 21 and the syndicate Robert was in accrued huge debts. 'I became a bankrupt on paper.' He has, however, come to a confidential arrangement with Lloyd's.
This disaster triggered the complete collapse of his relationship with his father. 'I wasn't prepared to accept ridiculous conditions to be helped. It was better that he kept all his money. I don't ask or want to take any money from him.'
HE ALSO sold his luxury house in Gerrards Cross for £550,000. Under the huge strain of it all, he and Bella split up for a few weeks. When they got back together, they decided on a fresh start and, in 1990, emigrated to an upmarket suburb of Cape Town. Robert trained and worked as a diver. It was a happy time, but they left four years later, due to the country's increasing violence. They then moved to Dublin where, for three years, they ran a 50-seater fish-and-chip restaurant.
It was Bella who wanted to return to London. They moved back in July and live in a rented terrace house in South London.
Robert has begun a small car business, importing Mercedes, BMW and Japanese cars. He and his father haven't spoken since January. 'I am an outcast,' he says, without rancour. 'Anyone else might have been proud of a child who had suffered from chronic alcoholism, been in prison and then managed to turn his life around.
'But it doesn't bother me. I feel that at last I have an identity. If I hadn't been caught drink-driving, I would be divorced or dead. Instead, I have a close and happy family. It was the turning point and the best thing that could have happened.
'The only sad thing is that my father has no contact with our children. He doesn't even send them birthday cards. Oliver, who knows who his grandfather is, desperately wants a Chelsea shirt. I've suggested he supports another team.'