Sir Bob Murray, knighted on Saturday in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, was the man credited with rescuing Sunderland from bankruptcy.
Murray receives his knighthood for services to football and education - apart from Sunderland, he has also been heavily involved in setting up the new City Academy schools.
Murray said: "I feel incredibly proud and am overwhelmed to receive such an enormous honour. I see this award as being not just for me personally but for my family, friends and many business colleagues I have worked with and who have supported me and helped me achieve my ambitions in life."
He added: "My parents worked extremely hard throughout their lives and did not get the opportunities that many people enjoy today, but they provided me with the values and beliefs that have given me the confidence and drive to succeed. They would have been very moved and proud to see me be recognised in this way.
"I would also like to thank my wife Sue, who is a huge source of strength and support in my life and I am sharing this wonderful honour with her and our three children."
The son of a steelworker in Consett, Co Durham, Murray left school at 16 with a single O Level, before studying accountancy at night school. He went on to set up the Spring Ram kitchen and bathroom manufacturers before moving into commercial development.
He joined Sunderland as a director and minor shareholder in 1984 before rescuing the club from insolvency in 1986.
He went on to become Sunderland's longest-serving chairman - during which time Roker Park was replaced as the club's home by the Stadium of Light - before selling his shares in 2006 to an Irish consortium led by former player Niall Quinn. He remains honorary life president of the club.
Murray, who initially moved to Leeds from the north east and now lives in Jersey, was also a Wembley board member between 2001-2002 and worked with then-chairman Lord Patrick Carter to deliver the new national stadium for a fixed price.
He is project director for the National Football Centre at Burton which has recently been revived after the project was mothballed for several years.