The Business on: Ian Penrose, Chief executive, Sportech

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The Independent Online

Mr Pools to bag the Tote?

Steady on. It appears that Sportech chief executive Ian Penrose is through to the second stage bidders for the state-owned bookie. While rival oddsmakers at Bodog have him as only second favourite, the current jolly, Betfred, would be very controversial with the horseracing industry. Sportech may therefore be a much better bet: it would keep the peace.

Why do you say that?

Mr Penrose has proved himself to be an effective diplomat. He overcame competition objections to turn Sportech into Britain's sole football pools company and his affable style would be a refreshing change in an industry full of prickly egos.

Why's he need to bother about keeping racing onside?

One of the Tote's major assets is the privileged position it has on racecourses up and down the country. It also provides a considerable degree of financial support for racing, which has lots of friends in the Tory party.

What's his background?

He's an accountant by training (aren't they all), entering the profession after obtaining a BSc in Management Science from UMIST (the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology). He qualified at Ernst & Young before moving into commerce getting his big break after being spotted by Trevor Hemmings, the tycoon who owns Blackpool Tower and a host of top racehorses, among other things.

What are the odds?

Bodog puts Sportech at 11-4, which could eventually look like good value. Penrose has been transforming the group and has bought Totes in the US to add to the substantial pools business. The principle in both is similar: everyone pays into a pool, which is shared out among winners after Sportech takes a cut.

A busy time then

Oh yes. This Preston North End supporter won't have much time for trips to Deepdale for a while. That might have been on the cards when he joined Sportech (headquartered on Merseyside) from Arena Leisure. Not any longer, though.