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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The colourful crew at Betfair

The colourful crew at Betfair

Crikey 18/1/06

By Stephen Mayne

Could PBL have picked a more colourful partner than UK betting exchange, Betfair, to take on the incumbent state totes? Fresh from all the allegations about free upgrades for Paul Lennon at Crown Casino, the latest issue of UK magazine Private Eye has done over Betfair's company secretary and legal director, Martin Cruddace.

Anyone who followed the City Slickers share buying scandal that engulfed The Daily Mirror in the UK would know that it was a sordid affair in which reporters and the paper's then editor, Piers Morgan, profitably bought shares in companies before they were tipped on the powerful tabloid's business pages.

Well, it turns out that Cruddace was the lawyer responsible for checking the column and he also happened to own a racehorse with the main reporter involved, James Hipwell and Morgan, otherwise known as "Moron" by Private Eye. Hipwell is now a convicted criminal and Morgan left the Mirror in disgrace.

Cruddace was first asked to investigate the Slickers team by his bosses and quickly wrote in a report that "the evidence appears to exonerate the Slickers from any allegations of ramping." Private Eye goes on to say:
The Department of Trade & Industy wrote to the Mirror expressing its concern that several of the Slickers' columns might be in breach of the 1986 Financial Services Act. Once again Cruddace used his full legal authority to offer blithe reassurance: though the column might be 'unusual for a tabloid newspaper,' it was 'a legitimate form of journalism.' But he neglected to mention that he himself had bought shares in three separate companies just before they were tipped by the Slickers, and persuaded his girlfriend's father to invest as well.
Doesn't that augur well for the probity of racing in Australia?

The Sunday Times had a good piece on the recent boardroom upheaval at Betfair which saw CEO Stephen Hill depart last October and then three directors, including chairman Sir Robert Horton, resign two weeks ago as disputes emerged about floating the business. No doubt legal director Cruddace will ensure honesty and probity prevails.


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