No Brighton & Hove Albion fan howled, jumped around or waved his blue-and-white scarf more exuberantly on April 17, 2017, when the club secured a spot in England’s top flight for the first time in 34 years, than Tony Bloom.
Joshua, Bloom’s young son, gawked with wide eyes up at the old man, who caroused in place like a drunken gooney bird after Brighton’s 2-1 victory over Wigan. The kid will never be more amused.
Some owners or chairmen might claim to be an everyman, just another supporter in a common cause, but they’re all poseurs compared to Bloom.
That day, he squirmed in a seat—along with 29,938 close friends—to watch the club that he bought in 2009 and has been in his blood since his first breath in Brighton. He rejoiced with his fellow fans as if it were New Year’s Eve. The Seagulls have rewarded Bloom’s impressive emotional and financial investments by remaining in the Premier League. Their victory Saturday at Aston Villa kept them out of the relegation zone.
The shy and humble man known on the global poker circuit as “The Lizard” is a mathematical wiz who parlayed a series of profitable endeavors into what might be the world’s largest sports-betting consultancy.
He talked about his climb, of attending Manchester College and brutal early betting forays, with author Mike Atherton in his 2006 book “Gambling: A Story of Triumph & Disaster.”
“Those early losing experiences stood me in good stead,” said Bloom. “They taught me how not to do it. I had a long, hard look at the losers around me and I promised myself that I wouldn’t become one … I would become fiercely disciplined.”
Starlizard, his 160-person company in the Iceworks building overlooking a canal in Camden, north London, is stocked with analysts, researchers, statisticians and algorithm experts whose EPL odds are sharper than many bookmakers’ figures. On match days, the constant communication required to react, in nanoseconds, to the ebbs and flows of Asian-handicapping odds must be intoxicating. Starlizard invests roughly $1 million in every match.
That staff is split into quadrants. Nobody in one quadrant knows what anyone in the other three is up to. If they do assemble the puzzle pieces, it’s grounds for dismissal. Employees that don’t deliver? Grounds for dismissal.
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When profits do roll in, though, to the tune of about $150 million in an average Starlizard year, bonuses are exceptional. Starlizard earns more than $20 million annually just in selections it releases to elite clientele.
Few details have been leaked from that very private world. Conversely, the reserved Bloom becomes quite a public figure regarding his club and Falmer Stadium, better known as The AMEX. The calculated businessman transforming into a giddy Seagulls fan is the stuff of comic books.
He rides the train to watch Brighton’s away games, doesn’t flinch at taking a selfie with dozens of fans on a station platform and often buys a round for supporters in the carriage that he occupies.
Bloom has spent the equivalent of about $350 million on Brighton since he took ownership. He pumped another $150 million, in today’s dollars, into construction of the new stadium, which opened in 2011.
“The fans rightly adore him,” Brighton executive director Martin Derry says on a video feature on the occasion of Bloom’s 50th birthday in March. “He’s done so much for the club.”
Come Saturday, when defending EPL champion Liverpool visits The AMEX, my rooting interest will be for the club whose owner can appear so childlike to his own child.
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ðŸŒŸ @c_nk97 scored his debut Champions League goal against PSG earlier this season ðŸ™Œ
We spoke with him ahead of tomorrow’s rematch ðŸ—£ï¸
ðŸ”´âšª #RBLeipzig #PSGRBL #UCL pic.twitter.com/UHQdXKVEqC
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) November 23, 2020
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Last week: 2-2