BusinessCorporate FinanceThe corridors of power…

The corridors of power...

It takes a lot to get me fired up these days, but my pulse quickened at the exciting headline in the Financial Times: ‘Lottomatica to buy GTech in $4.8bn (£2.7bn) deal.’

Yes, I know I’m a sad old git, but let me explain. The UK National Lottery is
GTech by another name. And few stories have packed in so many personalities.
When tenders went out for the UK lottery licence in 1993, GTech was the prime
contender.

This US provider of lottery software and equipment ­- with the ‘G’ as in
Gaming ­- was at the top of its game.

The company was created in the 1980s by Victor Markowicz, a mathematician,
and Guy Snowden, a former IBM technician. They used to ham it up at lottery
conferences with Blues Brothers routines.

Their financial backers included the Bass Brothers of Fort Worth, Texas,
famous for using the family’s oil wealth to ‘greenmail’ big corporates by buying
stakes and making a nuisance of themselves. Texaco paid the Basses $400m
to go away.

The UK was the only European country besides Albania not to have a lottery,
and there was the kudos of snaring this desirable contract. Camelot, the winning
consortium, was in essence GTech technology with partners bolted on.

Most people will have forgotten all this, but they may remember how it all
went down the pan. Snowden was rash enough to go up against Sir Richard Branson
in
a High Court libel trial.

He had been stupid enough to challenge Sir Richard’s integrity.
Unsurprisingly, Snowden lost. Camelot bought out GTech, although it remains a
supplier.

And now, this giant of lotteries has been sold to the Italians. See why I got
so excited about it? Maybe I need a holiday.

Jon Ashworth is a freelance journalist

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