James Moore: Playtech directors need to broaden their horizons


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The Independent Online

Outlook Playtech has been shopping for another of its founder’s businesses, handing over up to £333m for a majority stake in TradeFX, a financial betting platform.

The City certainly liked the deal, marking the shares up upon its announcements and with analysts greeting the news with positive comment.

And why not? TradeFX will allow Playtech to plough a profitable new furrow, and the deal is structured so that Mr Sagi will only get the full amount if the business he’s selling hits its performance targets.

Playtech has done well with previous acquisitions, and its technology is generally hailed as top notch in gambling circles. It’s influence on Ladbrokes’ online business is certainly noticeable.

Still, it does rather seem that every time Mr Sagi wants to cash out with one of his ventures, Playtech is where he goes. When he knocks on the door he’s inevitably greeted with open arms.

It’s almost as if he serves as an incubator for Playtech’s deal flow.

It’s true that the company has come a long way since it made its debut on the junior AIM market.

Now on the full list of the London Stock Exchange, while Mr Sagi is its biggest shareholder, he doesn’t have a seat on the board. There is more formal distance between company and founder than exists at, say, Sports Direct. Playtech is none the worse for that.

However, it is notable that brokers feel the need to express a little disappointment at yet another “related party transaction” in the midst of their praise for the deal.

If Playtech’s directors have the company’s long term interests at heart they need to fly a little further beyond Mr Sagi’s orbit than they are hovering at present.