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Softbank gambles on Betfair

And PartyGaming loses boss

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Betfair is selling almost a quarter of its shares to Japanese investment firm Softbank.

The online gambling exchange will sell 23 per cent of its total shares. Although no value was officially put on the deal, the FT valued the firm at £1.5bn, making each Betfair share worth £13.

Betfair's parent company the Sporting Exchange Limited will make an offer for between 15 and 20 per cent of public shares and then add three per cent of its own stock.

The deal should close 3 April - "subject to certain conditions". Betfair's chairman Tim Bunting welcomed the deal and Softbank's "hugely sucessful track record in a number of related areas". Softbank was an early investor in Yahoo!, as well as buy.com and WebVan.

Statement available from here.

In other gambling/gaming news, online poker specialist PartyGaming is saying goodbye to its chief executive.

Richard Segal will leave the firm on or before 1 June because he does not want to relocate to Gibraltar where the poker firm is based.

He originally agreed to commute from the UK but he, and the board, now agree that the chief exec should be based in Gibraltar and, after discussions with his family Segal, decided to stay in the UK and therefore leave the firm.

PartyGaming also released results for the year ended 31 December 2005. Revenues are up 63 per cent to £560.5m. Ebitda increased 49 per cent to £334.6m - but this falls to £200.5m including IPO expenses and legal costs of the skin settlement. ®

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