The Telegraph is reporting that there may be as many as 15 bidders vying to acquire the UK Tote. Bankers Lazard, who are handling the sale on behalf of the UK government, are neither confirming nor denying the figure. However, contrary to previous information, the Telegraph’s sources claim the government is now looking to rid itself of the entire operation in one go, rather than sell off the Tote’s on-course pool betting monopoly as a separate entity from its 516 betting shops.
That last bit of news — if true — will not please Gala Coral and Paddy Power, which really only desire to acquire the shops. Sportech and South Africa’s Phumelela, which covet the pari-mutuel pool, are also likely to greet this news with a frown. Of course, there may not be anything preventing the eventual buyer from chopping up the Tote and selling off the unwanted bits, so on with the show.
Other known bidders include Betfred, Martin Broughton, and the Reuben brothers. A consortium of bidders includes ex-Ladbrokes chief Chris Bell, racehorse owner Piers Pottinger and horse journo Brough Scott, all backed by private equity firm GI Partners. The team of Andrew Stewart and a few deep-pocketed members of securities firm Cenkos Jersey plans to float the Tote on London’s Alternative Investment Market if their bid is successful.
Then there’s British Horseracing Authority chairman Paul Roy’s plan, which boils down to ‘screw the auction, British racing will take the Tote off your hands for nothing and run it as a charity’ — the kicker being that the recipients of the charity’s benevolence will be, well, themselves. Like to see them try that at Sotheby’s. ‘Right, never mind the bidding, just put that Picasso in our car boot and you can all come round to ours and view it any time you like — for a fiver.’ Going once, going twice… Sold, to the man with a tenuous grasp on reality!