Tote hires Olswang corporate lawyer to lead privatisation

Olswang corporate lawyer Nigel Roddis is leaving the firm to indulge his enthusiasm for horse racing as head of legal at the Tote.

He joins the state-owned betting chain as company solicitor and company secretary as it prepares for privatisation, during a period of flux for the gambling industry.

Roddis says: “I wasn’t trawling around for work or looking to move on, but I’m a big racing fan and I think it was an opportunity to try and combine interest and work life. It’s hopefully not a bog standard in-house role.”

He says other challenges include the boom in internet gambling and the threat of betting moving offshore, a move first mooted by the Tote’s chairman Peter Jones after the Budget. He warned the Government that its refusal to axe betting duty could force the Tote to move its UK internet and telephone betting offshore.

Roddis says: “Victor Chandler [online bookmakers] went offshore to avoid betting duty and others have followed and the Tote have got a challenge because, being a Government organisation it’s not in its interests to go offshore and avoid tax.”

The Home Secretary Jack Straw announced a month ago that the Tote would be sold to the horse-racing industry after lobbying by the industry and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

“One of the interesting things is it’s not going to be a straightforward flotation to the public. It’s being sold to a racing trust,” says Roddis.

“A large part of the profits are ploughed back into racing and the proposals hope to continue the Tote’s relationship with racing.”

The Tote was not one of Roddis’ clients, partly because Olswang represents Channel Four, one of the main buyers of racing rights, and so there is a potential conflict.

The Tote’s main corporate firm is Slaughter and May, and it also uses Rowe & Maw for general commercial work.

Roddis says: “The in-house legal team is me, so there will be quite a lot of reliance on Slaughter and May.”

Roddis joined Olswang two years ago from Dibb Lupton Alsop.

He replaces Joanna Gardner, who left in December last year. It is not known where Gardner had moved to.