Eric Baker: Premier player in online ticket trading takes on his critics

A Day in the Life: Eric Baker's Viagogo aims to bring safety and certainty to an often murky marketplace,but he has to work hard to defend his industry


Eric Baker likes to get an hour in the gym in the morning to "clear my head, think about what is coming up and organise my thoughts". This requires an early start, but today it will pay dividends because he's going to need a clear head.

The company that Mr Baker founded, Viagogo, is very much in the news following the call by the Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, for websites such as the online exchange to stop reselling tickets for "crown jewels" sporting events such as the Grand National, Wimbledon, the FA Cup and the Rugby World Cup final.

Mr Burnham has said legislation is very much a last resort (and the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is opposed), but he has called for a voluntary code of practice. As part of his response to this, Mr Baker is planning to do his bit to defend the industry on Radio 4's consumer programme You and Yours.

After his workout, the Harvard University graduate returns to his Knightsbridge home, his laptop and the overnight emails. "A global business like ours spans a lot of time zones. We have an office in San Francisco, for example, and, you know, the sun never sets on tickets. Whatever time it is, somewhere in the world, they're being bought and sold."


Mr Baker has arrived at Stamford Bridge for a meeting with Chelsea's chief executive, Peter Kenyon. Viagogo would rather work with sports clubs and event promoters than against them, and caused quite a stir when it signed partnership agreements with Chelsea and Manchester United to enable fans to buy and sell tickets, and particularly unused season tickets, over the internet (for a price, of course).

Such partnerships are required in the Premiership, but not in the US, although Viagogo has signed a deal with the NFL's Cleveland Browns and would like to do more. Says Mr Baker: "I sit down with Peter Kenyon and his colleagues, so I can see how our product is going, what the feedback is like, and how we can expand the concept. Chelsea is on the way to the office, so it's easy for me to stop by on my way in."

Of those who run the club, he says: "I find that they are very focused. They are very focused about winning on the field, but they also want to be the best off the field. This will to win extends through everything they do, and so it's an exciting place to go."

Viagogo now has similar partnerships with a growing stable of Premiership clubs, including Everton, Fulham, Portsmouth and Blackburn Rovers.

Controversial it may be, but ticket trading looks like it is here to stay.


The meeting is over and a satisfied Mr Baker has arrived at his office in Hammersmith, where he is holding a get-together with his senior management team.

"I'm sitting down with the guys who run marketing, operations, business development, and we talk about our objectives, what we have coming up and how our existing partnerships are going. We talk about the music festivals coming up and Livenation, the biggest promoter in the Netherlands, which we have a partnership agreement with."

Still, Mr Baker has some powerful opponents, who include Harvey Goldsmith and the Glastonbury Festival. But he argues that they will eventually have to come around as they become increasingly isolated.

"Look, we're there for the fan. The fan is our customer, but we want to work with the industry. Allocating tickets so only the buyer can get in doesn't work anyway, it's logistically impossible. Look at the World Cup. They told me when I came over here that if anyone could organise individual allocations it would be the Germans, but it didn't work.

"What we provide is a safe, secure environment for people to do this. It means they can sell unwanted tickets and buy them without having to deal with touts, or the man in the pub. A lot of operators like the fact that we are there because if you deal with the man in the pub you'll often end up with a forgery, and the venue gets it in the neck when they have to bar the buyer from entry."

Viagogo guarantees you will get your ticket when you buy over its site, and that it will be legitimate. This guarantee, of course, comes at a price, with 10 per cent of what the buyer pays and 15 per cent of what the seller receives going to Viagogo.

The controversy has come about, for example, by people sweeping up tickets for big events and then selling them at vastly inflated prices in the secondary market.

But, then, Viagogo came into its own during the aforementioned Rugby World Cup, which saw thousands of Australians and New Zealanders buying tickets to the final, only for their teams to crash out, while the English, with little faith in their team, found themselves in the opposite position.


Mr Baker is at the BBC studios in the West End for You and Yours, where he takes his critics head on. It's a job he's got used to, and he's good at it. He talks very quickly, but clearly. A casual dresser (sweater and slacks today), in common with many internet entrepreneurs, like so many Americans he's very open. A confident talker, he is blessed with the salesman's gift of the gab, which is so important in business. It makes him an effective advocate for his product.

After the programme, he heads back to his office for lunch, a sandwich, hurriedly eaten in front of the computer. "I'm a lunchtime worker. If I'm not meeting with someone, I'll work through, reading reports, looking at the website."

After lunch, he sits down for his 2pm meeting, which will focus on Viagogo's continuing international expansion. "We are talking about Spain, and we have some exciting events planned there.

"You know, I don't want to slag off America, but we do sometimes tend to see Europe as like the United States of Europe. We say Europeans do this, Europeans do that, and that's just wrong. Europe is a collection of individual countries, and each is very different. Each has its own culture, its own way of doing things."


After a short break to catch up with emails, Mr Baker has to interview a candidate to be his Spanish country head. "We are a growing business, so this is something I have to do a lot of. I like to spend an hour with them, to see whether they can do the job and fit with us. I'm looking for people who have high energy and are passionate about what they do."

He adds: "Look, we're not doctors here, I know. But we are proud of what we do, of what we've built and the service that we provide."

After a debrief with his HR head, he's on the telephone to New York and LA about the company's US operations before embarking on what he calls a "clean-up" of the day's events and a look through his calendar for tomorrow.

He won't finish until 8pm, when he will head out to meet his fiancée for dinner. "It's usually sushi or Lebanese food. It's a great way to unwind. I like to make sure I meet my fiancée for dinner every night. She's very understanding about my work and doesn't mind if I'm a bit late occasionally, but you have to strike a balance. I'm lucky, I have a wonderful fiancée."

The road to Viagogo

Name: Eric Baker

Position: Founder and chief executive, Viagogo

Age: 34

Marital status: Engaged

Education: Harvard University


2006-present: Launched Viagogo, where he remains CEO

2000-2004: Presidentof StubHub (founded while at Stanford)

1999–2001: StanfordBusiness School (MBA)

1997-1999: Bain Capital,associate based in Boston

1995-1997: McKinsey & Co, focusing on internet and e-commerce

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back