James Moore: Clever Breon Corcoran is a winner for Betfair

Outlook Betfair's Breon Corcoran produced the best possible response to the private-equity sharks circling the company he runs. The betting exchange operator issued a trading statement that surprised on the upside, a welcome change for those investors who bought in when it floated at £13 a share.

The company might have revolutionised an industry, is still Britain's biggest dotcom, and has a brand that is known wherever people can legally place a bet, but it has never come close to living up to what was promised when it went public.

Mr Corcoran is clearly intent on changing that. He did the clever thing by getting the bad stuff out of the way first, upsetting some when he told them they would have to accept less than they might have hoped for as a result of the company pulling out of markets where the regulatory situation is less than favourable.

He has also taken the axe to an admittedly bloated cost base, and while that's painful (500 staff gone and counting), it's probably necessary. Betfair's bureaucracy needed trimming and the leaner, fitter business that will emerge on the other side of this will be better-placed to compete in a fiercely competitive gambling market while keeping the likes of CVC Capital Partners at bay.

The latter's takeover approach was always an opportunistic one, and a long shot to succeed even if it did have the support of a couple of big investors. By putting out a number on what it might be willing to pay if management agreed, if it could get access to the books, if it could find financing, it created a lot excitement without any real substance.

Mr Corcoran's counterpunch was all about substance. CVC has until Monday to put up or shut up. In reality, it has run its race. Betfair's new boss appears to be just getting started.

Comments