Friday, December 08, 2006

THFC Power Brokers – Part Two: Paul Kemsley

The second part of The Waddler’s three part series on Tottenham Hotspur’s power brokers is finally here, and this time it’s the turn of the number two at Spurs, Vice Chairman Paul Kemsley. In Part One the links between Daniel Levy, Paul Kemsley and Joe Lewis were explained from a business perspective. In terms of information about the man himself, that is very thin on the ground.

Paul Kemsley, or “PK” as he likes to be called is a self-made man who has made much of his money from property. He runs Rock Investments which incidentally is half owned by Joe Lewis through a vehicle called Rapallo, of which a certain Daniel Levy is an executive director. He recently found himself in the business pages due to a particularly impressive deal, where he and HSBC made a profit of more than £30 million in just five months. Rock bought and then sold the Grade I-listed former headquarters of Midland Bank on Poultry in the City of London, whose vaults featured in the James Bond film Goldfinger in 1964 (see The Times for more info). He has this week seen his name bandied about again on speculation that he is involved in buying a chunk of a company building property around the new Wembley Stadium (see this in the FT for more info on that deal).

Rock came to prominence a couple of years ago when it became involved in a high profile takeover battle for Countryside Properties. Countryside’s chairman and founder, Alan Cherry, had tabled an offer to take the business private when it emerged that Kemsley was interested in making an offer as well. He built up a 28.5% stake in the company, and Cherry was forced to raise his offer to ensure he could complete the deal. Kemsley made £12m on the share gain even though it was reported that his bid had “failed”. Presumably, all that profit must have helped soften the blow.

Kemsley is also involved in a profit-sharing deal with THFC whereby they have agreed to pay him 15% of any profits the club makes from its property investments. Its a deal that has caused a stir among fans, but which Levy defends as a fair return for the work Kemsley will do. Spurs have been buying land around White Hart Lane bit by bit to create a larger footprint for the stadium if they decide to stay, and of course have been involved in land deals in Essex and Enfield in recent years in their quest to find a location for a new training ground. Clearly this is Kemsley’s game, and judging by the Poultry and Countryside deals, the man knows value when he sees it. If Spurs can make tidy profits on property, and that gets funnelled back into THFC, then it can only be good for Spurs.

Aside from Property it seems Kemsley’s other big interest is in gambling, in particular online gambling, where he has taken positions in a number of quoted businesses. Gaming VC, Party Gaming, Betex and Gaming Corporation, have had PK’s money recently, although his biggest success has been with a 17.5% stake in Fun Technologies, who make skill games, which allow customers to play solitaire, chess and other games for money. Unlike casino games or sports betting, it is legal in America. He also has high hopes for a new betting business to be launched next year, called A Right Result, which will allow people to bet on the outcome of a series of football matches and answer a number of questions for a £1 stake and the possibility of winning thousands.

He doesn’t just like gambling as a business opportunity though, he is by all accounts a big player on the London poker circuit, where recently at a tournament he plonked $150,000 on the table and declared that whatever he won he would donate to charity. Unsurprisingly he had the full support of much of the crowd after that. He also owns a racehorse with Harry Redknapp called Sunshine Rays.

Interestingly, Paul Kemsley is the link between the old and new regimes at Spurs, as he is an Alan Sugar man too, appearing on BBC’s Apprentice as one of Sugar’s hit men in the semi final episodes of both series. Sugar introduced him saying “he's a very smart young businessman and I value his perception”. He is also big pals with Philip Green, the owner of BHS and Top Shop and another wealthy Spurs fan (as is Sugar). He came across as very brash and confident on the Apprentice, but did come out with some great one-liners such as “If you go out of this office down to the Peugeot salesroom you’ll find four Pauls in there – and three of them will be wearing nicer suits.”

So he knows lots of the right people, he seems to be a very shrewd investor, and apparently loves Spurs and loves being Vice Chairman of Spurs. Maybe then he could take over from Levy and take the hot seat himself one day? He’d certainly know lots of the right people to ask for advice, and if he keeps making the sort of money that he has done so far, he may even be able to buy the club himself. He looks like a man to keep an eye on.

The Waddler.