Friday, 6 April 2012

hope for investors in the Centaur scandal?

In a breaking story, it has been reported that directors of the failed sports investment fund Centaur have had their assets frozen in order to repay investors. It is believed that managing director Keith Sobey skipped town trying to avoid prosecution however he either naively thought Ireland was a safe enough place to hide or had a lingering feeling of guilt and sat waiting for that knock on the door.

Sobey, the name behind Centaur (read the original story here), is believed to own four houses, worth more in total than the missing £1.6m. His willingness to sell them to repay investors is likely to keep the matter out of the courts, and at least one other director, Andrew Cork, will apparently follow suit.

All this adds weight to anecdotal evidence that the collapse of the fund came down to mismanagement rather than fraudulent deeds. As costs grew (why would you set up a training academy in central London?), margins evaporated and keeping the business afloat went through money like an 'It' girl in a Christian Louboutin shop. However there are allegations that £400k in directors loans were paid from client funds late in 2011 which were splurged on cars and expensive holidays.

The business focused on three areas: securing investment money, training Betfair customers and investing (punting with) client funds.

Centaur was way too shiny and fake for serious investment. Sobey simply thought everything he did on a small scale could be multiplied linearly and they'd all be rich. A few signed up to it, but the Gibraltar-based firm who managed the funds for them need their heads examined for expecting the public to stump up £50m to trade with. Any punter will know that when you step up from £5 stakes to £50, things change. Put another zero or two on the end and you start having great difficulty getting set, unless you are A - a complete mug, B - betting only into the bigger markets (eg Cheltenham, EPL football etc) which are so tight there is little edge, or C - you falsely claim your bets were on at price X, when actually you got £5 at the best price and the rest went on much lower because bookies see you coming a mile off and slash the price because you're not wise enough to use beards/bowlers to get set properly. But, apparently this practice (C) is legal under advertising standards....

Centaur partnered with Betfair for a while to conduct training seminars for customers. Sobey's scale problem arose again - filling four seminars of 20 people in a week made him think they could do that every week of the year, and run several at the same time. It just doesn't work like that and Betfair weren't interested in hammering their database regularly to plug it, nor to subsidise expensive training for low-value customers which simply doesn't add up, unless it is part of an underlying company ethos which has long disappeared.

My spies tell me the training they offered was of high quality, however it all centred around one individual. Centaur made no effort to train/hire additional staff to roll the programme out, believing anyone could do it, and Betfair cannily had the partnership deal linked to the programme being led by one person. When that person left the business, one of his assistants was given the opportunity to take over, but Betfair felt the writing was on the wall and the get-out clause was activated.

Once the individual left and Betfair pulled the training, the new man, Neil Daldy came up with the idea to allow 40 people to come in and do a four-week "intensive" course and then trade for the company. So 40 people applied and came in every day for four weeks at their own expense, no payment with the promise of a job at the end of it. They were trained on BetTrader Evolution for 4 weeks on training mode and of course, with no pressure, they all made money. Then they let them loose on the REAL markets and you don't need me to tell you the result. One guy was abused so badly by Neil Daldy he went home one night, opened his own Betfair account and transferred via obscure markets the whole £15,000 bank allocated to him. Police were not called as this would have exposed the whole situation at Centaur and the guy was allowed to leave with no consequence. Daldy, who allegedly took a four-hour lunch break every day on the company credit card and came back pissed mid-afternoon, was eventually fired for trying to destroy Centaur and steal the clients and start up on his own.

Punting with client funds was always going to be the hardest part. Any half-serious punter will tell you how hard it is to stay on top of the game. If you expand the business or your turnover, you need extra resources, and these resources don't come cheap. Bookmakers these days have mostly switched from expensive, high quality staff to cheaper operators who mostly monitor automated systems. There aren't that many experts left. On the other side of the counter, unless you have developed/purchased your own sophisticated programmes to do most of the work for you, then there is no option to recruit cheaper, less skilled labour. It was soon very evident that Centaur could not get anywhere near promised targets so it went back to square one - Keith Sobey using his tipping line bets for straight out punting. Ever tried punting your way out of a deep financial hole? Has it ever worked? Not likely. Complicate that with all the stresses of trying to hold a business which you have invested heavily in and it's a desperate picture. No time to do the form properly, bookies seeing him coming a mile off and laying unders every time and lo & behold, the business collapsed because for all the good intentions in the world, if you don't arm yourself with the resources to make the business a success, you have more chance of flying to the Moon than turning a profit....

If reports are true about Sobey and co being prepared to pay back investors, then I'm glad and that's one less nasty black mark against the industry. But it will make it very hard for a sports investment fund to get off the ground unless they are far more professional about it. An Australian firm called Priomha are making positive steps at doing that, following basic business school principles, and importantly for punters and investors, being very transparent about what they do. I am certain it can be done properly - but there is no room for sloppiness, cutting corners or ill discipline as we've seen from the Centaur fiasco.

14 comments:

  1. If you have an edge in sports markets you don't need client money as you scale quickly thanks to the nature of the markets, but you also hit a glass ceiling where your % returns start to go backwards.

    You also have this issue that your return is probably above the cost of borrowing, so you wouldn't need client money anyway. Asking for it is a sure sign you haven't experianced these limitations, what does that tell you?

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  2. something I severely doubt any of those investors ever considered... Sobey always needed the funds because it was obvious he could find winners occasionally (have been told his tipping lines were better than many) but hopeless when it came to staking or getting set.

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  3. All this is hardly surprising - a trailblazing business model, intensive courses, quick profits; need anyone guess what the results would be?
    Also, ANY profit seeking business regardless of where and how it operates will end up in the graveyard very rapidly if Neil Daldy is involved. I used to work with this popinjay at TTT Moneycorp in 2006; the company was a flourishing physical FX business that wanted a robust entry into retail FX. Taking a chance on Neil they soon discovered that start-up money was dissipating like a fart in the wind. Moneycorp Markets was so badly planned and organised that it was dead in the water before welcoming a single client. Daldy hired 20 client services staff even before an FSA license was granted and who were then were sitting there for 6 months twiddling their thumbs without clients to service. His admitted modus operandi was: get any kind of pap out there because all punters are thick and will lap up anything as long as Neil did the talking. Talk he did, and fired he was after a year of doing little more than showing up, the start-up business could only muster a handful of clients and revenue that didn't even cover the stationery expenses. The commercial director there at the time, a top-end pro and nice bloke called Keith Hatton was responsible for overseeing this clown and he too suffered for his incompetence. Just prior to getting the skids at TTT, Daldy convinced a US consortium of investors in TTT led by Paul Belogour to "flush" the TTT idea and go it alone with him in yet another start-up (anyone wanna guess where this is going?).
    They called it Boston Merchant and were desperate to run trading seminars in central London aimed at attracting clients on the cheap and churning them through a company called WorldSpreads via a WL agreement (any bells ringing?). The seed capital came from the US consortium and was supposed to be used for setting up a legit business i.e. office, staff, equipment etc. Alas. Instead, Daldy did all these things so loosely that the only thing worse would have been to offer trading accounts out of the back of a van down the local market in Peckham. Everyone at the firm was paid in cash with no declarations to the HMRC. The majority of the money went into a spec trading account at futures trading house Schneider TA- an account which Daldy decimated within months in tandem with a man named Michael McGovern - a guy brought in off the street who's only experience was an introductory trading course organised by Daldy. The name of the game for these shysters was to aggressively punt futures markets with the hope of filling their pockets AND getting the start-up going - all without alerting Paul who was based in the US at the time. It wasn't their money so it was "happy days". Those days weren't happy for long because this was 2007/2008 which meant high-volatility and you guessed it, large losses. Eventually when the hammer came down it turned out Daldy had done a runner to Gibraltar with over £250k of Belogour's money. The word round the camp fire was that he was being forced to pay off his unpaid taxes and support a wife and kids he had stashed over there. This guy had more plates on the spin than Gordon Ramsey. The kitchen where the books were cooked was a chartered accountancy firm called Sochalls based in the West End of London through a woman named Nilufer Hoare (now it may sound like it, but I promise you, I’m not making this up). Just as her name suggests, she was partial to incentivisation of the Benjamin variety. Isn’t it said that the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall? All this was over 3 years ago so I suppose after all this time, this gung-ho train-wreck facilitator needed more cash and here we are. Yet another start-up, yet more delusions of grandeur, failed logic, bad practise, fraud and finally a runner (probably with a wad of cash in hand to take back to the farm in order to re-stock the troughs). The brood never bites the hand that feeds, it seems.

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  4. Peter's comment is a bit off target. Keith had been successful with the funds for 10 years. People invest, he uses their money and makes his money off the 25% fees each month taking no risk at all with his own money. What killed it was getting professional brokers involved and they convinced him to take fees ONLY on winning months, so if you went behind for a few months, which happened because Keith was trying to run so many projects at once and started cutting corners on his analysis that he could never get the clients back in front and the fees dried up.

    He also split the funds into A and B so as not to dilute the % returns because as Peter states the obvious, the more in the fund the lower the % return.

    You can make 40%pa on 500k but try doing it with 3 million. So he split the funds but that meant splitting the winners. Newton A got less winners as some went to Newton B and because of this, both funds floundered. So Keith started chasing by backing real short ones and of course they got gubbed. His speciality was finding 20/1 shots that should have been 10/1 but he panicked.

    We now know that he was dipping into the funds since August 2010 as he was convinced there would be a buyer. But I asked for the 12 months I was there what were they buying? Keith was the tipping, I was the training, Steve was the guy that got all the money on at good prices. Without those three there should someone but it, what was there? What were they buying? And for £10million quid? He was delirious.

    There was a trail of interested parties come through the door and they all bought the idea, until they got to due diligence and looked at the books. There was no money because they had used it all setting up the academy and hiring the two people that chewed through more money than a politician on a junket, Neil Daldy (Keith's biggest mistake) and Tony Woodhams who spent a lot of Keiths money playing gold with his mate's on the UK's most expensive courses for his business meetings.

    It can be a major success if managed correctly and the most important thing in Sports Trading, DON'T PUT TOO MUCH IN THE FUND.

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  5. ....Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

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  6. By all accounts Centaur approached quite a few people to either invest or get involved in the business, but few did. It didn't take much effort to learn there wasn't a great deal behind the facade.

    You could see prior results on their old websites. The Maxnet (Renamed Socrates) 'fund' was backing odds on footy teams from way back in 2004 for just a few hundred a game. Small time value gambling yes, investment fund. No! I was deeply alarmed when they repackaged as a 'regulated investment fund'.

    I just hope that people who lost money get most of it back. It's a shame that people who knew what was going on in the inside didn't alert people before it was too late.

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  7. If you are accusing me Peter I can assure you as will everyone else there that we had no clue that investors funds were being used. Keith assured us it was his own money and I was assured by others he had the money when I questioned it.

    I spent the year questioning his actions and I saved a lot of people from investing, trust me on that. We were all hoping Keith would be able to sell it and we could get on with the job without his dictatorship and interference.

    The regulated investment fund was separate to the private managed accounts (those that lost money) and was owned and run by Quay Financials from Gibralter, it was never ours, we were just the fund advisors. It was doing ok until Keith interfered and started trying to blast his way out of trouble and trying to win to get more people involved.

    Quay closed it because they wanted a lot more money in the fund and couldn't get it but that was nothing to do with Centaur, that was Quay's issue.

    If any of us had known what was really going on, I can assure you we would not have sat there and done nothing.

    The people on the inside as you call them, knew nothing util Keith walked in very early in January and announced it was over. That was it.

    But it now becomes clear why we were never allowed to see the books and why Andrew Cork continually refused to hand over any financial control, but hindsight has clarity does it not?

    Golfing Golfer.. time for a new record mate, you have worn that one out.

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  8. It seems Mr. Neil Daldy is extending his fraudulent reach into sports trading by initiating his latest (and possibly greatest) 'mismanage your money, and run' job.

    https://www.duedil.com/director/917084953/neil-frederick-daldy

    https://www.duedil.com/company/07882581/city-sports-traders-ltd

    A new outfit called 'City Sports Traders Ltd' has recently been launched with Daldy working at the sharp end - the results of this escapade are likely to be similar to Centaur, TTT and Boston Merchant i.e. disaster.
    Those reading the earlier posts on this thread, will be aware that Neil Daldy has been responsible for hundreds of thousands in losses, mismanaged funds, fraud and theft in each company or position he's held over the past 10 years.

    And who said past results aren't indicative of future outcomes??

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  9. Dear all,
    I was told to read this after Neil my so called colleague disappeared to....you've guessed it Spain. This is why I was pointed to this site. I am director of a company called City Sports Traders. It is essentially a prop trading firm and we are not client facing or accept other peoples money. We have aspirations of creating a syndicate which will accept funds in the future but I didn't want to do this until we had created the right team, models etc.
    In November Neil never returned to the office (after his 7th week off between aug-Oct). He never returned my calls, offered any explanation as to his behaviour until eventually informing me by text that he was not returning to the office. He then emptied one of our trading accounts and we are in the process of trying to recover the funds through proper legal channels.Neil was a consultant until about August and then made a director.
    I am not sure what I can and cannot say but I feel a bit of a fool for being sucked into his web of deceit. I am also prepared to argue my case against his in any court of law. I am not running away and he knows where we are if he contests any point I have made. We have CCTV in the office and it transpires that he was drunk and sleeping in the office on several occasions and this has been corroborated by the caretaker and one of our traders. What has happened has been one of life's lessons and I am glad that it happened without the loss of anybody else's funds. If anyone has any news on Neil or knows if he is back in town please let me know through this site.
    So for the record Neil is no longer a part of this company.

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    Replies
    1. Neil is back in Spain now working here................

      http://www.carbon-expert.com/meet_the_management.php

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    2. Ha! Funnily enough, there is no mention there of his recent 'consulting' gigs...

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    3. There is strong evidence to suggest that Mr. Daldy's new company, Carbon-Expert, is a boiler room scam operation selling worthless "carbon credits" to unsuspecting members of the public:

      http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/04/04/carbon-expert-another-boiler-room-scam/

      Presumably Mr. Daldy's past work experience is coming in handy.

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  10. That really is quite sad. City Sports, a young start up company full of ambition and ideas comes into close contact with Neil Daldy, the serial con artist. The prediction I made back in April has come true to the full extent (see above). I only hope the money Neil took wasn't substantial. And I wish you luck in its recovery.

    Every breath Neil takes leads to an exhalation of lies, and every penny he steals never comes back to its rightful owner. The man is stealing simply to keep his alcohol habit satisfied and the rest goes on his rug-rats back in Spain. He has to keep moving, keep earning and keep visiting Western Union to keep up with the bills. He's like a Yugoslavian builder, only fraudulent and with a quarter of the work ethic.

    One guy has already tried taking this weasel of a man to court - his name is Paul Belogour. Not sure how successful he was but you could try contacting him. He works for Boston Merchant Financial in the US.
    You can also try to contact Nilufer Hoare or Brian Sochalls at Sochalls Chartered Accountants. (http://www.sochalls.com/where-we-are)

    Assuming you can trust these people, they will know where Neil's favorite rocks to hide under are, including the location of the Daldy-cave where all the loot is hidden. However, considering these accountants do all of Neil's accounting and administering, the chances of Nilufer or Brian actually having an honest bone in their body is pretty remote.

    Back in 2007/2008, Nilufer and Brian were keen for Neil to redirect the funds he stole from Paul Belogour and mitigate the fallout so they could collect a plump fee. They were also instrumental in Neil's earlier business ventures. The guy has committed large scale fraud at 5 companies over the past 7 years at least and all he seems to have received from Sochalls is some pertinent financial advice.
    Which makes one of two things necessarily true -

    The people working at Sochalls are either incredibly incompetent or incredibly bent. Probably the latter considering the track record. If they were incompetent there is little you can do apart from sigh and look down on them with pity.... but if they're bent, you can always make a better offer.

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  11. we have actually run an extensive due diligence on Centaur and I can say that as much as Keith was a good person and in principle always in good faith he lived in a world of dreams that didn't existed; I have also been asked to give evidence from the Business Insolvency Service in regards to the misappropriation of funds and I spent almost six hours explaining how we came to the decision not to invest and why and show them all the red flags in the business model but also in the way the business was conducted

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