Belfast Telegraph

BoyleSports' new boss still has dreams of expansion in Britain

By Samantha McCaughren

The new chief executive of bookmaking chain BoyleSports has said getting the top job was never a certainty - despite his family links to founder John Boyle.

The chain was founded by Mr Boyle in the Co Armagh village of Markethill in 1982.

Last year, when he decided to take a step back from the company, he named his son-in-law as chief executive.

"I had the longest job interview in the history of CEOs because John, I suppose, over the last period of time was stepping back," said Mr Gray, who is married to Mr Boyle's daughter Kerry.

"So probably since mid-2016 I've been trying to take more and more responsibility and John has been encouraging me to take more responsibility and to make decisions as well."

But Mr Gray has said he will now focus on putting his own stamp on the bookmakers, which continues to compete well against giants in the sector, such as Paddy Power Betfair.

"We're going to continue to do what we've done hitherto, because that has been a successful formula. But look, I'm like all new people in new jobs," he said.

"I would love in two or three years, when we're looking at BoyleSports and maybe there's a presence in the UK, or is it a presence in a different geography, that they're saying that was Conor Gray's project.

"I have an ambition to do something for the company that's going to change the dynamic within it, whilst always acknowledging what has brought us to where we are, because you can't turn your back on what it is."

Expansion into the market in Britain has been a long-term ambition of the company, and one which Mr Gray hopes to deliver on.

"We've been trying to get into the UK on a number of occasions. We've spoken enough about it, that's for sure," he said.

The biggest attempt was in 2016 when the company tried to buy the 370 shops that fell outside the Ladbrokes-Coral merger. It was unsuccessful, however.

The CEO said: "It is still an ambition because our data, our history will tell you if you have a retail presence, it will help your digital business, and vice versa. So we have an ambition to be in the UK."

And Mr Gray added he was very aware as a child growing up in Markethill of its most famous resident.

"In the early 1980s, John had a white Volkswagen Passat and it had gold-colour alloys. He was the first to have a Mercedes in Markethill, and he had a black one, and I can remember the number plates, which is bizarre," he said.

"John had stuff in the town that no one else would have had.

"He was an entrepreneur and he was afforded these luxuries."

Belfast Telegraph

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