Irish lottery pioneer joins Branson: Consortium recruits heavyweight answer to 'lightweight' jibes

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THE UK Lottery Foundation, the consortium headed by Richard Branson and Lord Young of Graffham to bid for the national lottery, is to disclose this weekend that it has secured the services of John Fitzpatrick, the man who launched the Irish lottery, as its chief executive.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who runs Minitel, an Irish phone banking venture backed by Credit Lyonnais, AIB Group and French Telecom, has agreed to become chief executive of the lottery should the Branson-Young bid win. Meanwhile, he is acting as a consultant to the consortium, which is also advised by IBM, the advertising agency J Walter Thomson, the accountants Touche Ross and the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.

The bid, which pledges to give all the profits it makes from running the lottery to charity, in addition to the pounds 1bn a year the lottery is supposed to raise for good causes, has been criticised for being lightweight and lacking expertise. The appointment of Mr Fitzpatrick is seen by the Branson team as an answer to these criticisms.

Mr Fitzpatrick was the marketing director of An Post, the Irish post office which is behind the Irish lottery. He moved to the lottery in 1986 and masterminded its launch three years later.

A rival described him as able and one of the nicest people he had met in business. 'At the end of a working day he's the sort of chap you'd like to go and have a beer with,' he said.

It is understood that Mr Branson met Mr Fitzpatrick through mutual friends in County Kildare and that he helped Mr Branson to form his ideas on a bid for the British lottery, which he has promoted for many years.

Mr Branson and Lord Young, chairman of Cable & Wireless, have pledged to underwrite a large part of the bid costs and have committed hundreds of thousands of pounds to the venture.

With nearly a month still to go to the final closing date for lottery bids, eight groups have already expressed interest. They include The Great British Lottery Company, headed by Granada Group and Vodafone; Camelot, which includes Cadbury Schweppes and De La Rue; and Games for Good Causes, led by Lord Hollick's MAI Group and Ladbroke.

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