Former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King says Czech firm Sazka’s Lottery bid ‘could revive high streets’
Former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King has said the Czech firm vying to run the National Lottery could help to revive Britain’s ailing high streets.
King, who stepped down from Sainsbury’s in 2014, is advising Sazka Group on its tilt for the lottery. He told The Mail on Sunday that Sazka intends to add its ‘technological savvy’ to the lottery’s online offer and drive more players to independent stores.
He said: ‘If you look at the lottery as it stands, one of the trends that is not good is that its growth has been achieved largely by fewer players playing much more often.
‘The lottery was billed as one of the saving graces of the independent corner shop – it would be a footfall driver, a reason for regular visits, which perhaps those corner shops have lost.’
Luck of the draw: The Gambling Commission will decide later this year whether to hand the remit to incumbent Camelot or one of several contenders
The Gambling Commission will decide later this year whether to hand the remit to incumbent Camelot or one of several contenders, including Indian firm Sugal & Damani.
It is understood bidders are looking at technology that uses localised marketing to tell players of nearby ticket sellers.
Sazka was founded in 2012 and runs lotteries in Austria, Greece, Italy and the Czech Republic. King is advising the group with Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman and London 2012 Olympics deputy chairman Sir Keith Mills, who is leading the bid.
Camelot has run the lottery since its inception in 1994.
King is deputy chairman of Guy Hands’ Terra Firma private equity firm and a non-executive director at Marks & Spencer.
Asked why he took the role, King said: ‘I think I’ll find it quite intriguing, stimulating and I am plural now so it’s always about finding things that add a little bit to the variety and mix and also that you can do, that fits in your life, it passed all those personal criteria.
‘I think it really matters. I have a general view that incumbency is never a good thing, I lived by that in my own leaving Sainsbury’s after 10 years, I have always had a view that people have a shelf life of their time in a role and I thought I’d reached mine. There is a compelling case as to why the lottery needs a shot in the arm.’
He added: ‘I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think that there was a real possibility that a change could happen and Sazka wasn’t the horse to back.
‘I don’t like losing and I think they have got an incredibly strong case to make. Clearly the Gambling Commission are running a process where change is a real prospect.
‘I think if you look at the history of the lottery perhaps that’s not always been true in the bidding process and Sazka make a compelling case for being the next organisation to be trusted with the lottery.’
Last month Leon Black, founder of Apollo Global Management, announced he is to step back from the private equity fund following a review of his links to the late paedophile and financier Jeffrey Epstein. Apollo invested €500 million (£437 million) in Sazka late last year.
King said Black’s conduct had no bearing on Sazka. He said: ‘There is not a FTSE 350 company that couldn’t go to, look at their share register and then ask them a question about someone that owns shares in their company.
‘I understand completely the concerns that are being raised with Apollo but they are concerns for Apollo and their shareholders, their leadership and for their regulator.’