Yorkshire needs to build network for tech giants of future, says leader behind growth of Sky Bet

Richard Flint Picture: Simon Hulme
Richard Flint Picture: Simon Hulme
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YORKSHIRE needs to build a forum to connect digital firms with investors who are looking to back the technology giants of the future, according to the man who turned Sky Betting & Gaming into a global force.

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>Richard Flint returns to Yorkshire roots ]

>How Richard Flint turned Sky Bet into a global force
Richard Flint also said the proposed merger between The Stars Group and Flutter Entertainment would mean that Sky Bet’s Leeds operation has a “very exciting” role in a global business.

Mr Flint, who is set to return as a non-executive director of the combined Stars Group and Flutter operation, said informal technology networks were really important

He added: “If there was a forum for digital businesses to get together on a quarterly basis, maybe part social, part business, that would be a positive development.

“I’m a judge for a competition set by an investment bank called GP Bullhound.

“They have got their Northern tech awards annually and I would say 40 per cent of the companies that reached the shortlist are from Leeds or Yorkshire.”

Mr Flint said that, on many occasions, the first time he heard about those businesses was when he was judging the awards.

He said: “We need to do more to build that network in Leeds which also could feed into investment again.

“There are successful people who have made money out of tech businesses in Yorkshire who are looking to re-invest. Sky Bet wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for (the technology investor) Peter Wilkinson.”

Mr Flint added: “It’s building on the successes of the past to build the successes of the future. The more we can create that network in this part of the world the easier that will be.”

Mr Flint, who is also the CBI’s regional chairman, said he was perturbed by reports that HS2 may not be coming to Yorkshire.

According to reports,the HS2 rail route to Leeds and Sheffield could be scrapped under cost-cutting plans, prompting a furious backlash from some of the region’s politicians.

Mr Flint added: “There is sometimes a false choice between East -West links and North-South links.

“Probably in the short term the East-West links are the biggest opportunity but eventually having stronger East-West links and the capacity and speed of HS2... connecting the North and South is really important if we are to carry on with the growth and success of the region that we have seen in the last couple of decades.”

Mr Flint added: “The whole of transport in this part of the region needs investment.”

He is due to step down from his regional role with the CBI in early 2020.

On his CBI role, Mr Flint said: “I’ve enjoyed understanding the diversity of business.

“You meet all different aspects of the economy.

He added: “Our national conversation has been so dominated by Brexit, that other things like trying to get some movement on the (regional) mayor situation and related to that, getting more progress with transport and skills, has been a little frustrated, through no fault of anyone at the CBI.”

Last week, Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment agreed a merger deal with Sky Bet’s owner, The Stars Group, to create a firm with combined annual revenues of £3.8bn.

The Canadian-based Stars Group took over Sky Betting & Gaming, which has its head office in Leeds, last year. Sky Bet has more than 1,300 staff based in the city and is continuing to grow headcount.

Mr Flint, the former CEO of Sky Bet, will take on a non-executive director role at the combined business.

He said: “The way the industry is developing globally, in the longer term, countries will license and regulate online gambling rather than trying to ban it.

“The UK was furthest along that journey. There’s a lot UK companies can bring to grow that sector worldwide.

“Through the combination of Flutter and Stars, we’ve got the raw materials to be one of, if not the, leading global player in that space.

“Yorkshire playing a key role in that is very exciting.”

He said it was also great to see the transformation of Wellington Place, the Leeds business district where Sky Bet has established its headquarters.