Statto's stats pay off as sports data firm sold in £47m deal

The television betting guru Angus Loughran is nicknamed "Statto" because of his love of sporting statistics but now he has proved there is good money in it too, as he has profited from the sale of the sports data firm Opta.

Mr Loughran, who was declared bankrupt in 2008 but has kept working, was one of nearly 100 small shareholders who invested in Opta, which was sold yesterday for up to £47m to Perform Group.

Compton Hellyer, founder of Sporting Index, the BlackRock investment manager Evy Hambro, the former Daily Telegraph managing director Jeremy Deedes and Oliver Pawle, chairman of the headhunters Korn/Ferry, were investors in Opta.

"Setting up a company as a 28-year-old with zero track record, you have to beg, borrow and steal from family and friends," the chief executive, Aidan Cooney, told The Independent as he recalled how he founded the company in 2000.

BSkyB, which helped to set up Opta, and the investment firm Albion Ventures were also significant minority shareholders with stakes of 5 and 15 per cent respectively. Opta has seen demand soar for its sports data, such as player performance statistics, which it offers in real time to clients such as Sky and the English Cricket Board.

"We set out to create a way of analysing player performance when we set up the company, but we were way before our time," said Mr Cooney. "When we went in to see the editor of Sun Sport [for the first time] and said, 'You should be using player data,' he told us to stop 'Americanising' sport."

Mr Cooney said Opta had seen a big shift recently as clients now want highly detailed statistics. "It's only really in the last three years that performance data has taken off. With the rise of the blogosphere and Twitterverse, fans have become much more sophisticated."

Perform, which supplies online data and video to sports and betting clients, is paying £40m upfront, with £7m for management based on performance.

FTSE 250-listed Perform has placed £120m in shares to fund the purchase. Cavendish Corporate Finance advised Opta on the sale.

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