Ed Wray, Andrew Black, Mark Davies, David Williams (legal) and Jon Cumberlege (operations) were the main five guys at Betfair when I joined way back in 2002 and what a great time it was. An exciting new company putting a rocket up the tired old UK betting industry and wanting to take on the world. The latter quartet have long moved on to enjoy the riches of their involvement, Ed has just announced he will be stepping down as company chairman.
The company is a long way from where it was in those days, some for the good, some for the bad, but you can't argue it has changed the betting industry forever.
I remember first meeting Ed in the old Parsons Green office after an hour chatting to David Williams, the head legal guy for several years, who had been 'interviewing' me with his bare feet up on the desk on a warm London day. Yes, there was once warm weather in London - I believe it was about August 25, 2002!
Ed and I had a great chat about the company, the betting industry and the world - it was easy to work out this was going to be a fantastic firm to work for.
A couple of months later, after finishing a stint of travelling, I became a consultant for Betfair, working on the Australian market, travelling to racecourses around the nation, being dragged into the stewards' room at Northam races in country Western Australia, slandered in the press by one of the most clueless racing adminstrators ever seen - Robert Nason - for making the perfectly valid statement that Australia has too many races and a fair chunk of them are contested by animals not fit to be on a racecourse (got a deserved dressing down from Ed for that), and many more good times....
It was all about working for Ed and Bert, and their dream. A dream that turned into something huge, and naturally, as it became a big corporate entity the fun slowly disappeared. It was no longer building someone's dream with an ethos of being the punter's best mate but turning into a soulless place desperate to float and with its heart set on screwing punters for every penny they can get.
After a strong revival in the past fortnight, taking the share price from £6 to around £8, Betfair's share price dropped over 50p today after the announcement. Part of it would be due to Ed's impending departure, but overall it was a bad day for the markets where most copped it. Times have changed at Betfair, the last real link to its exciting beginning is about to leave the building.
Enjoy your time on the golf course Ed, or wherever you choose to spend your time now, you've earned it.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device