Wednesday 28 September 2016

FanDuel: Meet the father of three who's set to become Ireland's latest billionaire

Nigel Eccles founded the online sports fantasy game FanDuel

Claire McNeilly

Published 22/07/2015 | 08:58

Nigel posted this picture of himself shortly after landing the huge financial backing
Nigel posted this picture of himself shortly after landing the huge financial backing

An Irish man is well on his way to becoming a billionaire having landed huge financial backing in the United States for his highly successful online sports fantasy game.

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Nigel Eccles, from Co Tyrone, founded FanDuel six years ago and his company is now valued at a staggering $1.3bn (€1.2bn) courtesy of a $275m injection from private equity investors.

The 41-year-old Cookstown man, who grew up on a dairy farm, co-founded and launched FanDuel with his wife Lesley (42) only six years ago. The couple live in Edinburgh and have three children - Archie (10), Hector (8) and two-year-old Annie (2).

Eccles - who is now on course to become Northern Ireland's richest man - is the company's chief executive and Lesley, whom he met in 1995 when they were students at St Andrews University in Scotland, is its executive vice-president.

The firm has powerful backers, including Google Capital, Time Warner, NBC Sports Ventures, Comcast Ventures and investments from the owners of a number of NFL and NBA franchises.

Malcolm Moore, leisure industry correspondent with the Financial Times, said FanDuel has become a "proxy for gambling" in the States.

He added that many players are as interested in stats as they are in sports, and try to develop their own 'Moneyball' style systems.

"A lot of people who are playing this aren't necessarily sports fans, if you speak to FanDuel they are very careful to say that there is a great tradition of fantasy sports in the US," said Mr Moore.

"One of the things that has led US sports teams to invest in FanDuel is that it deepens fans' engagement with the sport." The main reason FanDuel has succeeded in the States is because online sports betting is illegal there and this is the closest people will get to legal online gambling.

And, unlike other season-long games, FanDuel offers games for NFL (American football), NBA (basketball), MLB (baseball) and NHL (ice-hockey), as well as college football and basketball, that last just one day.

Its marketplace lets you play for free or bet up to $5,000 to build a team of players. You can play head-to-head or in a league with up to 125,000 teams. The winning team is the one with the best player stats, which translate into fantasy points.

Using a salary cap system for team selection, players can challenge friends or other users whenever they want without having to commit to the entire season. Players enter free or paid contests and depending on their skill in selecting their line-up they can win prizes, cash or simply bragging rights.

Eccles exploited an exclusion in the 2006 online gambling laws that outlawed Web poker and continued the ban on sports betting, but left fantasy sports alone.

Belfast Telegraph

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