Simon English: Is Ladbrokes chief on a loser as he makes a deal to woo internet punters?
Outlook. Plus: Don't let Paulson hedge bets on Puerto Rico; And here is the news as Buik bows out
Tuesday 12 March 2013
Last week Ralph Topping raised a few eyebrows among gamblers in the City and elsewhere when he predicted that William Hill could be worth £5bn before too long.
Chief executives are paid to be bullish, or think they are, but from a present market value of less than £3bn that's a sizeable punt forward.
His belief that the rise in mobile phone betting has much further to go was aped yesterday by rival Ladbrokes, which struck a deal with Hill's erstwhile online partner Playtech.
On one hand the deal is a coup for Ladbrokes' Richard Glynn, who joined the company three years ago with a brief to rescue its sputtering internet effort.
Playtech is widely seen as one of the smartest players in the sector, not least due to the reputation of its founder, the Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi.
Mr Glynn has already largely fixed the Ladbrokes shops, but is still well off the pace on the internet.
Its customers spend less money and less time on its websites than do rivals'.
So maybe Mr Glynn, after several false starts, is on the way to cracking it, though the terms aren't all in his favour.
One gambling observer put it like this: If you do a deal with Teddy Sagi, he got the better side of it.
Don't let Paulson hedge bets on Puerto Rico
Banker fails humility test, episode 987.
John Paulson, the US hedge fund king who made $15bn (£10bn) for his fund by cleverly betting that the subprime mortgage market was an absurd bubble, is said to be so annoyed at the taxes he has to pay for the privilege of living in Manhattan that he may move to Puerto Rico.
Now, there's nothing remotely wrong with betting that things will fall rather than rise – it's part of how markets work, and those subprime deals would have failed whether he had bet on them or not.
Still, he profited from other people's lives becoming a disaster, even if he didn't personally increase their misery.
In mortals, that might prompt pause for thought. Some soul-searching. A feeling that it might be good to, you know, give a bit back.
Instead Mr Paulson has been checking out Puerto Rico's real estate so he can eliminate taxes on his hedge fund gains by taking advantage of generous local tax laws, reports Bloomberg.
New York should tell Mr Paulson he's welcome to leave on the proviso that he never returns, just to see how serious he is about this.
There's a reason why Puerto Rico has to offer such tax deals – it is, shall we say, far from the loveliest of Caribbean islands. A place to visit, at best, rather than to live.
In the UK, the equivalent example sees some of our big shots occasionally threatening to take their money and depart to the Isle of Man, which has a top tax rate of 20 per cent.
You only have to go there once to get the feeling that the suicide rate must be about the same.
And here is the news as Buik bows out
For broadcasters looking for a City voice to enliven their coverage of what the stock market did today, or to defend what evil bankers got up to yesterday, David Buik has been the go-to-guy since God was a young boy (so it seems).
For print reporters desperately in need of similar, the same rule applied. If in doubt, or in a tight spot, phone the Buik hotline. He would come up with the goods and right quick.
Yesterday the old-time sage of the City announced that he would be moving on from Cantor Index, not bothering with the usual guff about wanting to spend more time with his family. He was made redundant, and said so.
If at times his commentary was verbose or even (ahem) a little right-leaning, politically speaking, that was part of the fun.
You didn't have to agree with him.
Beyond looking like Mr Pinstripe on the One O'Clock News (and the six and the ten), Buik performed other valuable roles, as lunch companion and confidante to financial hacks who may be in danger of taking themselves too seriously. Told a tale of woe about how awful life was, 50 years of experience at the sharp end of the City would be summoned and the gentlest word offered as the wine glass was refilled : Have a word with yourself, son.
Now he's gone, at least temporarily, a gaping hole in the market opens up. The good news is that the best person to fill it remains available for hire. After a well-deserved break, we trust.
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