To misquote Oscar Wilde, building up and selling one
business may be regarded as fortunate; to build up two and sell them on
may look deliberate; to do it a third time and revolutionise an
industry in the process begins to look like serial behaviour. Mark
Blandford, founder and executive vice-chairman of Sportingbet, has done
just that. He has been involved in bookmaking for just over 20 years,
and built up a chain of shops in the 1980s, which he sold to Arthur
Prince in 1990. He then started again and sold his second chain to The
Tote in 1997, by which time he was already working on his third big
project: Sportingbet.com, the online gambling company.
Blandford is proud of what his company has achieved in a short space of
time. Sportingbet was established in 1996 and spent two years getting
the right funding and people in place before it started trading in 1998:
its accounts to 31 March 2003 showed turnover in excess of £1 billion.
Turnover in the quarter ended 31 December was more than 20 per cent up
on the equivalent period the year before. It has over one million
customers and can be said that it was responsible for a big change in
British gambling legislation and a fundamental shift in government
attitudes to the whole betting and gaming industry.
Sportingbet is a phenomenal success story. Its an online business that
is actually making money, which sets it apart from other organisations
that rose and disappeared in the dotcom boom of the late 1990s. How has
it managed to be so successful?