Yet only eight months after being signed to his new consultancy role, the 68-year-old’s influence on the northern beaches has been almost as profound — completely transforming his beloved club from basket case to genuine NRL premiership threat.
“And it’s all been led by Bozo,’’ Penn told News Corp Australia.
“None of what you’re seeing now would be possible without him.
“As owners, we knew the club needed change. Significant change.
“And we also knew it wouldn’t happen without Bob Fulton.”
Asked if Fulton, at 68, was a better signing for the club than the teenage version who arrived from Illawarra in 1966, Penn continued: “No question.
Bob Fulton played 219 games for Manly between 1966 and 1976.
“What Bob did as a player, then as a coach, it’s unheralded. But what he’s doing for us now ... he’s creating the next dynasty for this club.”
While no stranger to Sea Eagles history — Penn fondly recalls trading his spare Graham Eadie footy card for the entire Canterbury side at school — the Manly chairman also insists Fulton is influencing the club like never before in 2016.
Apart from convincing Sea Eagles poster boy Daly Cherry-Evans to backflip on his Gold Coast deal, the Sydney grandfather has also hand-picked new coach Trent Barrett and marquee recruits Dylan Walker, Nate Myles and Marty Taupau.
Elsewhere, the club legend has also made a host of significant changes to the franchise, including the construction of a new gymnasium, medical room and kitchen at the club’s Narrabeen HQ.
Trent Barrett was hand-picked for the coaching job at Manly by Fulton.
Opening their season against Canterbury at Brookvale Oval on Friday night, the Sea Eagles sit fourth in premiership betting, with many pundits tipping now them and Brisbane for the 2016 grand final.
After several discussions within his family, Penn revealed it was his father Rick who first reached out to the Manly great, who still holds positions as Australian Test selector and NSW Origin adviser.
“Dad and I realised some wholesale changes were required,’’ he said.
“And who better to create that than an Immortal?
“We’re a top four club. That’s the expectation we have as owners.
“But we knew we couldn’t get back there without Bob Fulton.”
Apart from missing the finals last year for the first time in over a decade, the Sea Eagles horror season also included the departure of Test star Kieran Foran, the DCE contract circus and the sacking of coach Geoff Toovey.
While CEO Joe Kelly this week refused to comment on Fulton’s impact at the club — demanding to be briefed on the story via a club media staffer before responding — Penn was, thankfully, far more forthcoming.
“The last thing I want to do is go over old ground or open old wounds,’’ he said.
“But we needed a fresh start.
“We realised the club needed to go in a direction that wasn’t possible with some of the people we had there.
“So there’s a new vision which has absolutely been led by Bozo.”