Phil Green's big win play havoc with casino group's profit - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

An extraordinary series of big wins at the roulette table by Philip Green, the retail billionaire, is behind a London casino's warning that its profits are likely to fall by several million pounds this year.

Mr Green, who with his wife, Tina, owns Bhs and the Arcadia group, won an estimated ??2 million in one night at Les Ambassadeurs in Mayfair and at least a further ??1 million on other gambling nights around last Christmas.

Mr Green had a ???fantastic night at the tables???

Mr Green, 53, who has a reputation for working hard and playing hard, told a friend about his biggest win earlier this year. "I had a fantastic night at the tables," he said. The energetic businessman is a formidable gambler, willing to wager tens of thousands of pounds on a single spin of the wheel.

A handful of other millionaire gamblers won similar amounts to Mr Green against "the house" during the winter.

Such large wins are rare. Statistically the odds favour the casino and it can usually predict profits accurately over several months.

London Clubs International (LCI), which owns Les Ambassadeurs, issued a warning on Tuesday that its profits would fall "significantly" because of the spectacular wins. The club usually accounts for nearly two-thirds of LCI's profits. Last year the company's operating profit was ??18 million. This year that figure is likely to fall to less than ??10 million.

Les Ambassadeurs, which is located off Park Lane, bills itself as "one of the most exclusive gaming clubs in the world".

Along with The Ritz in Piccadilly, the club is the favoured London venue of many wealthy Britons and foreign visitors who play roulette. Members include Pini Zahavi, the football "super-agent" and a key adviser to Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club. Mr Zahavi sealed the deal to bring Jose Mourinho, the football manager, to Chelsea, over lunch at the club.

The main gaming room, which overlooks Hyde Park, offers roulette, blackjack, two forms of poker and baccarat. The club has a large Middle Eastern and Chinese clientele.

The dress code is smart and ties must be worn by men after 8pm. Members can gamble from 2pm until 6am. A client negotiates his or her maximum bet with the house.

Bill Timmins, who took over as LCI's chief executive in January, said that the casino had "shockingly'' poor results in December and January, when its international players got the upper hand. This was the main reason that the group would barely break even in the second half.

On Tuesday, LCI's share price fell 6p to 103p. This was close to its lowest price for the year of 98??p. The 52-week high is 142??p.

Some business analysts were surprised last week that the share price had not fallen further because of the warning. The Financial Times suggested on Wednesday that the price had been supported by speculation that Genting Berhad, the Malaysian casino group, could use the news to increase its 22 per cent holding, a move seen as a forerunner to a possible merger.

Mr Green declined to comment on his wins yesterday but a friend told The Telegraph: "Philip has had a couple of big, big wins in the past few months. He is a real 'player' at Les Ambassadeurs; it is his favourite London casino.

"Like all gamblers, Philip has his losses as well as his wins but he has been on a golden run recently. The real knack is not dribbling back [to the casino] the money once you have had a big win."

Mr Green, who also plays blackjack, is believed to back a mixture of even-money bets - red/black, odd/even numbers, high/low - and individual numbers where the punter is paid odds of 35-1 if he or she chooses the winning one.

Mr Green bases himself mostly in the Mediterranean tax haven of Monaco. During the week he tends to stay in a London hotel; at weekends he flies to Monaco to join his wife and their two children, Chloe and Brandon.

Mr Green's precise wealth is not known but this month business analysts estimated that he and his wife had amassed a fortune of ??4.85 billion.

He became a millionaire at 33 after buying the Jean Jeanie chain for ??65,000 and selling it a year later for ??3 million. He became a billionaire faster than anybody before him.

Arcadia, which includes Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins, has provided him with his greatest wealth. Last year he earned ??650 million and said: "I am worth every penny."

Mr Green owns a Gulfstream G550 jet worth about ??20 million and a ??30 million yacht. He is the son of a London property dealer who died when Mr Green was 12.

He left school at 16 with no qualifications. Mr Green has twice failed to buy Marks & Spencer but few business analysts would bet that such an astute gambler will not one day achieve his aim.

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