Many of you familiar with the gaming industry will know the name Teddy Sagi.
In the casino world, Sagi is known for founding one of the largest, most profitable software companies in Playtech.
What you may not know is how Sagi got involved in the industry, and how unlike so many of his counterparts, the gaming piece is only a small part of his overall portfolio.
Teddy Sagi was born in 1972 in Tel Aviv, Israel. His father owned a travel agency, and his mother also worked as a licensed cosmetician.
Having two working parents is probably where the desire to make something of himself was instilled into Sagi, although the path he chose to amass his fortune would have many twists and turns.
Early on in his career, Sagi fell in with the wrong group of people to work with, which ended up costing him dearly.
The move for Sagi was clear: plead guilty and deal with the consequences. As part of that plea deal, Sagi was sentenced to 9 months in an Israeli jail. If you aren’t sure what that is like, go ahead and Google it… not exactly a country club facility.
It was clear that jail time put Sagi in a different frame of mind. Upon his release, he started to plan out his future. To build his bankroll, he used the expertise he had learned from his father to make some real estate deals and stock market investments.
These deals contributed to making Sagi some good money, but he knew it wasn’t the way to become incredibly wealthy. His research led him to want to invest in Internet-based companies; this may seem pretty obvious today, but back in the mid-1990s this was very much a risky play.
The early days of the Internet were led in profitability by one industry: porn. Back in those days, going online for adult entertainment completely shifted the paradigm, and one company, in particular, was of interest to Sagi: Unlimited9.
This firm was bringing in revenues in the seven figure range each month only a few months after opening their doors, and Sagi wanted in. Somehow, he used his business savvy and his gift of gab to negotiate becoming one of the major shareholders despite not being one of the founders.
This deal started to go badly for the original investors, as it appeared Sagi wasn’t bringing to the table what he had promised he could deliver. Ultimately, the founders split into two camps, one siding with Sagi.
That group of three moved the company in the middle of the night, resulting in a lawsuit from the other two founders. This case was settled for an undisclosed amount, but it’s safe to say Sagi walked away the winner in the deal.
By this stage, another industry was pulling major revenues from the Internet – gambling. Sagi flipped his Unlimited9 money into starting an online casino software company. However, unlike many of the other firms in the industry that pieced together games and features as revenues came in, Sagi wanted to unleash a top-notch piece of software all at once.
This was a pricey venture; he was hiring only the best engineers and developers, stealing them from other more traditional businesses. The result was one of the most robust platforms that has ever been seen in the space. Not only was the software powerful, but it was also innovative.
There were features, especially in the back office, which no other software could compete with;
The company was notorious for their negotiating skills; they knew they had a product that operators wanted, so they were able to charge a significant premium for it.
Not wanting to stop there, Sagi continued to push the development side of the business, adding bingo and poker software to his casino offering. They also started developing games for mobile devices long before the devices would generally be adopted for gaming purposes.
In 2006, Sagi decided it was time to raise some money by taking the company public. When Playtech shares hit the London Stock Exchange, the valuation was a staggering $760 million. Sagi had built an empire.
Never resting on his laurels, Sagi kept pushing the envelope with Playtech, adding more and more content including some licensing deals with top movie studios.
As the largest shareholder, Sagi was able to control what the company’s next moves would be. One of them would make Sagi even richer.
While Playtech was growing by leaps and bounds, Sagi used some of his new-found wealth to start another firm, TradeFX. This was a financial trading firm, allowing investors to trade shares in a company without buying them (now known as binary options trading).
Sagi owned 86.5% of this company when Playtech decided they would buy TradeFX to add it to its portfolio for their clients. The sale of TradeFX made Playtech more valuable while also adding about $500 million into Sagi’s pockets. So, he managed to gain more net worth from both sides of the deal.
While this Trade FX deal was taking place, Sagi decided to go back towards his original business roots by scooping up a very lucrative real estate deal. In 2014, he purchased the Camden Stables Market for over $500 million. For those of you who don’t recognize that name, just know that Camden market and surrounding area is one of the top 5 most visited attractions in London.
Recognizing the value of this area of the city, Sagi has slowly moved his assets into more investments in Camden, including the purchase of Camden Lock and the Buck Street market.
Continuing to leverage his knowledge to improve all his assets, Sagi turned the Camden Market into an online marketplace, allowing those who couldn’t get to the fabulous stores to be able to purchase the products online.
In June 2017, Sagi announced he was selling another 11% stake in Playtech to raise the money to purchase even more of the Camden Market area. This is the first time that Sagi will no longer be the largest shareholder in Playtech; his remaining piece is just under 7% of the company.
That is hard to say, but it’s safe to say that his desire to be a land baron in London is soaking up a majority of his personal wealth.
Also, let’s not forget that Sagi is the largest shareholder in SafeCharge, a payment solutions provider that has been very active in the European online gaming space.
With this asset, Sagi still has his hands in the gaming industry regardless of what he plans to do with his remaining Playtech shares.
The one thing Sagi hasn’t invested in long-term is a relationship. Often considered one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, Sagi has been linked to several high-profile women.
These days, it seems as though he has settled down with Yael Nizri, with whom he has two children.
However, as they are not married, it is hard to say if he is still craving the single life.