It's been another long but interesting day. In just short of three weeks since I left Betfair, I've picked up a couple of clients; am pursuing a number of interesting leads for whom I am in the process of writing proposals; have been roped onto one Board and another Advisory Board; and am now hiring. It's been quite a whirlwind of meetings, absorbing advice from all quarters, and trying to get used to the shortcut keys on my new Apple Mac.
In the midst of all of which, the endless stream of meals and drinks appears to have continued unabated, and the only thing suffering is my waistline. Thankfully, between servings I've had time to fit in a couple of pummellings on the tennis court, so all is not yet lost.
I met up on Monday night with an old adversary from Ladbrokes, who was among the first to suggest a beer on hearing the news of my leaving Betfair. Wags out there have been quick to insinuate that opponents who have suggested getting together have just done so to make damn bloody sure I'm off; but if that's been the intention, they've all been great company while they check on my departure.
Monday's couple of beers in Cork Street, round the corner from Ladbrokes' corporate office, consisted mainly of highly-enjoyable industry tittle-tattle. Included, inevitably, was discussion around the apparently mass departures of PR people from betting companies, what with Neal Wilkins and David Hood following me swiftly through the exit door. Who would ever have imagined that articles would one day be published mentioning Hoodie and me in the same paragraph, with no apparent mention of a fight...
Talking of fights, I lunched yesterday with a racing journalist and broadcaster with among the most forthright views in the business. Unfortunately I had to leave with only the single bottle of wine consumed, so the level of invective was lower than we've become accustomed to together over the years. We laughed at the news that one of racing's advisors is running around telling people I lost my job because I was rubbish at it, didn't have a decent argument to put, and couldn't put it anyway. He used to work with me, so I guess he ought to know...
Someone else who used to work with me made for another lunching companion today: Betfair's first proper commercial director, Tim Levene. I say 'proper', because in the very early days, I was in charge of the company's business development; and indeed Tim (who was at Flutter) and I were direct competitors. That was before the merger saw him take reins to which I was ill-suited (thereby saving the business, I suspect) and me move to a pure communications role; but after, amusingly and completely by coincidence, I had gone to see him - before either Betfair or Flutter launched - with a view to working for him at a betting start-up still hiding under the cover name of 'Insight Markets'. (He didn't hire me. I can't believe we still speak. :))
We ate at a Japanese restaurant on St. James's which seriously ought to be used as a set in a Bond film (if it hasn't been already), and discussed business ideas and strategies. Tim's dad is Chairman of Lloyds and was formerly Lord Mayor of London. I suspect Tim will be both before he's 45. I leave every lunch I have with him feeling well-fed, full of bonhomie, and entirely dubious about my own ability to do anything.
It wasn't because of that that I spent the rest of the day taking advice from various quarters about Camberton, honest: those meetings were set up well before! But I had a full afternoon and evening getting helpful hints and tips from kind people who are giving me the benefit of their knowledge about company infrastructure and visibility. One wishes to remain anonymous; the second, Will Rolt, take a bow. Thanks for your help.
By the by, if you're terribly interested in what I think the relevance of Betfair's Premium Charge is to the debate over levy, you can find out about it here. If you're not, you might be happy with the short version: "it isn't".