Peter Dubens – the money machine

Peter Dubens’ interview continues from page one

Peter Dubens’ work with Daisy Communications is a perfect example. He spotted that Daisy was doing the same thing as one of his companies – supplying telecoms to SMEs – so he thought, why not consolidate the two into one industry-leading business? 

Through Sir Philip Green, Peter Dubens was introduced to Daisy’s founder Matthew Riley, and they struck a deal: they would do a reverse takeover of his business, giving Riley £27.6m in cash and 24 per cent of the shares in the enlarged company. Peter Dubens also raised £83m from institutional investors for the business, which gave Daisy a healthy war chest, and allowed it to acquire more than 20 rivals before floating on AIM last year.

“Since floating Daisy on AIM, shares have increased in value by more than 20 per cent – Matthew is doing the most extraordinary operational job,” Peter Dubens says.

Another of Peter Dubens’ better-known successes is 365 Media.

Peter Dubens got a call from the chairman of Warner Brothers, Terry Semel, to ask if he would like to set up a betting business with Semel’s son Eric. Dubens agreed, and together they bought ukbetting. But Dubens spotted something awry with the model – they needed to change it if they wanted to stay ahead of the curve.

“Eric and I bought the business but the day after, we realised that the real interest was in information, it’s what drives customers to online gambling,” Peter Dubens explains. So he and Semel went on a buying spree for sports information businesses.

By the time the business, which became 365 Media Group, was sold to Sky in 2006 for more than £100m, it included brands such as Football365, Gold365, Planet F1, Sporting Life and others – and all of these pointed to his betting operations.

The key, says Peter Dubens, is that it became a machine that “fed itself”.

At the same time, he replicated this model with another business, which he built on the back of the dotcom bubble bursting. Peter Dubens bought, transformed and sold Pipex, the iconic early internet service provider. Picking it up after the dotcom crash, he added struggling (and good-value) acquisitions to the group.

In 2007, Peter Dubens sold most of Pipex’s operations to Tiscali in a deal worth £210m, boosting his already healthy fortune: “What was interesting for me was being involved both in the growth of broadband, and in a business that was using the expansion of broadband, with ukbetting.” 

Sitting on the fence

Peter Dubens hasn’t just been involved in complex consolidations – he also has a strong track record of working in entrepreneurial ventures. 

He is the “Pete” and Jonathan Sieff is the “Johnny” in “Pete & Johnny’s”, PJ Smoothies, which was sold to PepsiCo in 2005 for £20m.

His experience of working both as an entrepreneur and an investor has given him an edge, Peter Dubens says, as it allows him to “speak the same language” as entrepreneurs: “There are tell-tale signs and situations that you can only be aware of once you’ve been an operator – it isn’t something you can learn at school.”

Continue reading Peter Dubens’ interview on page three.

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