February 05 2013
My telephone betting business, Fitzdares,
is based in a Mayfair townhouse. Our idea has been to return to the
old-fashioned turf accountancy principles of yesteryear, looking after higher-staking telephone clients. Fitzdares now employs a team of 22 and we have 1,000
members, who are referred and seconded in much the same way as when one is
joining an exclusive members’ club – such as 5 Hertford Street, for
example. Last year, we took more than
£140m in bets.
We take bets on all sports, so the early hours of the morning were busy as my team and I, along with a global audience of over 100m, watched a thrilling Super Bowl. The game started at 11.30pm on Sunday evening, and in true American style it was quite a show. Alicia Keys sang the National Anthem and Beyoncé performed at half-time. Plus there was that power cut. But in the end the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31. This represented a level book for us: we neither won nor lost, as we had laid both sides. The 49ers would have been marginally preferable, but we have nothing to complain about.
National Football League is our third biggest sport behind horse racing and football, which surprises many people, but it’s a fantastic sport to bet on and is very well televised by Sky. I’ve learnt over the years that there is a growing legion of men up and down the country who dispatch their wives to bed with a good book on a Sunday night and then head downstairs to open a bottle of wine and watch some NFL. We took some wonderful bets, including who would win the coin toss.
I retired to bed for a power nap at 4am and woke a few hours later to a “welcome home” package (complete with camomile tea) from our travel agent, who booked us a fabulous and much-needed holiday to Mexico, which my wife, Beanie, and I returned from at the weekend. We had non-identical twin boys just under a year ago, so this was our first holiday since. Incredibly, my parents offered to look after Frederick and Hector so we could properly recharge our batteries. We stayed at Hotel Esencia on the Yucatan Peninsula, which until 2005 was the private residence of an Italian duchess, Rosa de Ferrari. It is an oasis of calm, with the most attentive and charming staff I have ever met – aside from our team at Fitzdares, of course.
It’s not an understatement to say that getting married and having children has probably saved my life. I remember when I first started out in the betting industry after qualifying from King’s College London in 2002 very consciously wanting to prioritise work over my private life. I was so grateful for a job, and one that I loved, that I willingly worked day and night. When I started my own business in 2005 that philosophy went into overdrive. I remember Ben Goldsmith, without whom I could not have set up Fitzdares, saying at a board meeting very early on that the worst thing that could ever happen to the company was for me to get a girlfriend! I was out every night of the week winning business and building the brand from scratch. I reassure my colleagues on the board that I now have nappies to pay for, so the motivation is still there – stronger, in fact – but in a much healthier way, with a far greater sense of perspective. I try to see the boys first thing in the morning before I go to work and wherever possible I get back before they go to bed. I now far prefer a breakfast meeting over after-work drinks.
So after 10 days of vitamin D, the second half of my morning starts as I veritably spring off the escalators at Green Park to the tune of Billy Joel’s Easy Money (if only it was) and through the doors of The Wolseley, to be warmly greeted by Jonathan Stockman, freshly installed as front-of-house having moved from Scott’s. I’m having brunch with Guy Rogers, who has been with Fitzdares since day one, moving up the ranks to, as of last year, CEO. Guy, together with our COO Ed Churchward (another lifer), is at the heart of the Fitzdares family. I don’t underestimate how hard it must be at times working with someone like myself, a self-diagnosed perfectionist and probably a control freak – although I’ve got much better at the latter. A carrot juice, ham omelette and an espresso later, Guy has brought me up to speed on the last week or so.
So far today we have had some competitive racing at Doncaster, including a trial for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. This sort of competitive racing is so important, because it really captures the interest of our members at a time of the week when there isn’t always such credible racing.
The latter part of the day is spent liaising with the charities that I plan to raise money for as part of the Boodles Boxing Ball, a biennial charity event organised by the jeweller, which takes place on September 21 at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane. I have been lined up to fight Arthur Landon. It’s mildly intimidating given that he is younger and has the considerable benefit of having fought before.
I have never done a traditional marathon, mountain climb or bike ride, so this is a first for me. I am loving it, as I can hopefully raise a not-insubstantial sum of money for five superb causes while also getting fit for my sons, who will take some keeping up with once they start walking. I train with the team of other Boodles gladiators every Monday evening, while our opponents train on a Wednesday, so we are kept apart until the big night.
I have developed a minor addiction to Whole Foods Market, which is 100 yards from our office, so after a 5pm meeting I nip over to load up on beetroot juice, three (small) chicken breasts, cauliflower and beans. I am regularly chastised by close friends for this kind of diet, but I defy anyone to not go slightly crazy when they walk into that place. And, more to the point, I don’t want to look a complete wally in front of 900 people on September 21. To tell the truth, I am more terrified about the weigh-in (with tops off) than the fight.
I have made a boxing playlist on my phone to get me in the mood, and so it is to the strains of Shot Shot by Gomez that I jog from the office to Fitzroy Lodge in Lambeth in time for our 8.15pm training session. I’m a reluctant exerciser at the best of times, but know that I need to put in the hours if I’m to be in with a squeak. Arthur is definitely an odds-on favourite at this stage.