I staked it all on thought power
A self-help seminar prompted the bookie John Boyle to set a turnover target of 1bn.
The recession won’t stop him
THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW AINE COFFEY
Sunday Times January 30, 2011
John Boyle, the founder and acting chief executive of Boylesports, sups a large health drink in his tiny cubicle at the bookmaker’s head office in Dundalk, Co Louth. He is not quite sure what is in the mix but the guys at the gym recommended it and “they are a picture”. Boyle — neat, bearded, healthy-looking — has spent an hour with his personal trainer this morning and says he will be knocking off at 5pm for more training. He hasn’t touched alcohol since being sacked from his job as a bread van driver at the age of 25 over his drinking. “I lost my youth,” he said. At 15, he ran away from home with a cousin and worked on the Isle of Man for six months in jobs that included being a hall porter and serving in a burger joint.
Then it was on to the bread van from 1975 to 1981, marrying and having two kids
along the way. Getting sacked was a wake-up call, he says. ‘They saved my life.”
Another wake-up call came in 2002, when he attended a two-week mind power
seminar given by Tony Quinn, the controversial ‘lifestyle guru’, that “lit my light”. As far as “mind technology” goes, he is both believer and evangelist. “All his philosophy made sense to me. I would say it is the best thing I have ever done. The key thing I took out of it is your thoughts create your reality and if you have control of your mind, you can achieve that goal. “I always had this understanding there was a power inside of me taking care of me and looking after me and I could ask it for anything.”
(See our earlier post –
After attending Quinn’s course, Boyle set himself a target of building up his business
to a 1 billion annual turnover with 25m profits. “I set goals and I wrap my mind around them and they happen.” At that time, he had 37 betting shops with a 90m turnover. He is currently buying 17 outlets from his rival Celtic Bookmakers, the chain founded by Ivan Yates that went into receivership earlier this month. That will bring his group to 158 shops and is part of a drive to get back on track to achieve the 1 billion goal. He says he can see himself with 200 shops by the end of this year.
After a pell mell expansion, Boylesports’ turnover stabilised at around 750m in
2008, when Ireland’s spending spree ended. “In 2009, turnover just dropped out of the sky. Boom.1 We had a year of saying we’d better pull in our horns; we had been
opening 20 shops a year.” Retrenchment included closing down a Spanish operation that was to have been the outpost for a planned European expansion of online gambling. “I would have said it was a five-year plan,” he said. “I would have to spend another 10m- 15m a year marketing it and wasn’t going to be getting that out of the estate.” He also failed to renew his sponsorships of Sunderland football club and the Cheltenham racing festival, partly to cut costs, but he says they had ran their course.
The year 2009 was Boylesports’ only lossmaking year and it swung back into profit
in 2010. The number of bets rose by 3% last year, he says, though stakes were smaller. The company opened a new shop, as well as buying a Celtic Bookmakers shop in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. So far, Boylesports has closed none of its shops. “That is not bad. That is not to say we won’t look at shops as time goes on if they are not making anything towards the rent.” Boyle says turnover has dropped no more than 5% from the peak, but that still means a hit of 5m- 6m to the bottom line.
“The main thing in business is you have to be a strong swimmer.” He opened his first shop in 1982, the year after he stopped drinking. It cost IR£18,000 ( €22,855). His father gave him a IR£6,000 loan and guaranteed the rest. Boyle senior, a publican, trained greyhounds for a millionaire, Rolls Royce driving London bookmaker. Boyle says it was a visit to London with his father at the age of 14 that got him into the business.
After a trip to the Greyhound Derby final at the White City stadium, and a tour of the
bookmakers, the teenager decided it was the life he wanted, complete with a Rolls
Royce: “I photographed it in my mind”.
Now he is living that dream. He has a Rolls-Royce Phantom with personalised number plates, JB7, after his seven children. His second car is a Range Rover. He lives on the coast in Rostrevor, Co Down, with a view of the Mourne Mountains. He holidays in style. “If you travel, you can go first class.” He took three months off last year, including a jaunt to Thailand, two skiing trips and a few visits to Tenerife.
(This is pure Quinn conditioning, the car, travel and doing everything first class. All the disciples follow this routine.)
He visits Lourdes every year with the Carmelite sisters. After spending New Year in the five-star Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok, the city’s top luxury hotel, he was back home for just two days before heading off to ski in Courchevel in France.
“I was thanking God every minute for letting me be there.”
(Here one gets an interesting insight into the spirituality of John Boyle. He obviously sees Quinn as compatible with his Catholic faith, yet above get the juxtaposition of going to Lourdes with the high life lifestyle. In a way through Quinn it is all about the old Celtic Tiger dream even after all the cubs have died! But suddenly he puts forward Quinn’s impersonal philosophy. He thinks it is Catholicism but it is about advancing self -IT.
. “I always had this understanding there was a power inside of me taking care of me and looking after me and I could ask it for anything.”)
This week, he’s off for a few days’ break at the Clonmel Coursing Derby, where Ashmore Lucky, his dog, is running. He is much keener on greyhounds than on horse
racing, and has two dogs. “I love the coursing. Maybe again it’s back to my dad
training greyhounds.” From the start, the bookmaker business did not disappoint Boyle. His first shop was instantly profitable. “I was getting wages of IR£500 a week after my running costs. The job I was in prior to that I was earning less than IR£13 a week. That was all in a year, and overcoming a drink problem. For me, it was like arriving in heaven.” Seven years later, he setup two shops on the same day in Drogheda. He says the IR£500 weekly wage quickly became IR£5,000. People were giving away shops for peanuts”, he says. “I bought a wee shop for IR£2,500 and in the first three days I won ER£7,500. I said, if this is a recession I can’t wait to get out of it” Boyle, relentlessly upbeat, sees this recession as offering similar opportunities. ‘For
young entrepreneurs, this is the perfect time, everything is free. People are giving
away businesses and properties. People will get opportunities now they wouldn’t
have got three or four years ago.” The Celtic Bookmakers receiver, for example, has chopped 200,000 off the leases Boyle is buying. Between the acquisition and the rebranding of the shops, the Celtic deal will cost Boylesports around 4m. “We are buying them out of funds, we were looking for opportunity,” he said. The company is still on the lookout. He expects the industry to shrink by another 100 shops, and anticipates more opportunities for deals among the smaller independents. “Another 50 to 10O shops will come available and who will want them?” He is also eyeing online expansion, this time focusing on Ireland and the UK, So far this year he has already employed about 30 people at the head office to work on the online business. Always an advocate of sharp-looking shops, Boyle has also been exploring new offerings. He recently introduced a roulette game to the shops and anticipates installing a range of virtual products, particularly if the bookmaking industry succeeds in getting the longer opening hours it is seeking. “There could be loads of other games, [such as] bingo games,” he enthused. “I have always thought betting shops would
end up like mini-casinos.”
CREATE YOUR REALITY
AND IF YOU CONTROL
YOUR MIND, YOU CAN
ACHIEVE THAT GOAL
A great source of relief is that he did not buy the UK Tote. “A few years ago, banks
were giving us €400m to go to the auction. Three different banks were giving it to us— it’s amazing isn’t it?” Surprisingly for a bookmaker, he has to be asked for his view on the maligned betting tax: “For God’s sake, we are all committed to the Exchequer. We are delighted to have funds to be able to give.” He is, though, critical of the 1% tax recently imposed on online bookmaking. Along with the rest of the industry, he says it is unfair because the government will not be able to collect from online operators based overseas. Boyle had stepped back from the top |ob at the bookmaker, but Boylesports has lost two chief executives in recent years. Daniel O’Mahony resigned in April 2009, after five years, and Boyle stepped in. Lee
Richardson resigned last August, after just six months in the job, to return to the UK
Boyle stepped in again. “Daniel did brilliant work for the company,” he said. “Lee
just didn’t settle in the country.” He is enjoying being in charge, but expects to recruit another chief executive down the line. “Whenever times are tougher is good for me,” he said. “I would be a strong swimmer, I genuinely believe I am very good at business.”
( I would agree, he has what it takes, and he misattributes what he has done himself to Quinn)
He says lie is a “super fair” boss, but has high standards and will not let anyone off
the hook. “Sometimes I look at people and say they don’t know how good they are,
like wee flowers that don’t get out to bloom. You get them into a meeting and
talk to them and you see them growing like wee flowers,” Boyle, who turns 55 this year, says he received a serious offer for the business a few years ago. “I couldn’t spend it m 50 lifetimes.” He calculates that he was probably worth around 300m at the peak, but will not venture a current estimate. “I am worth the same as everyone else,
much more than all the money ever created,” he said cheerily. “So I have a serious
value on myself.”
He is open to all possibilities down the line, including flotation and sale. “I don’t
think I make any decisions, I think life makes them for me when I am more connected
to it.” If he was not a bookmaker, he would be interested in “helping people be what they can be” through teaching mind technology. “Every Wednesday might I do a
wee meeting from7.30pm-8.30pm in Dundalk.” It’s about “relaxation with a
purpose”. His girlfriend Gloriane — he is separated from his wife — teaches with him.
On Monday nights, he meets a small group of other graduates of Tony Quinn courses. Those who criticise Quinn just do not understand how to apply his information, he says. “Most of them hadn’t been there and understood the philosophy. I got nothing but good out of it: better health, better wealth, better happiness.” Boyle’s son Liam, then 22, attended the 2002 course with him. He now has a multimillion pound bingo hall and amusement arcade business in Northern Ireland. Is he worried that some people reading his views on mind technology will consider him to be barmy? He could not care less because it has worked for him.” I have total peace of mind, all of the time.”
The life of John Boyle
Education: St Paul’s, Bessbrook, Co
Down; ran away at 15
Family: one son and six daughters,
aged from 19 to 35
Home: Rostrevor, Co Down
Favourite book: The first book that
lit up my mind is Awareness by
Anthony de Mello
Favourite film: I like gentle films, I
don’t Like murder. I enjoyed Avatar,
pictured. The interesting part of it
was the energy. The cinema is about
the only time I cry.
A typical day is to get up and go training in the
gym. This morning I got up at 6.20 am and spent
an hour with my personal trainer before work. I
usually have a 9.30am meeting here and then I am
available for any one
who wants to talk to me.
(This was I wrote about this in 2009….
“So I put a call through to him and look forward to see if we can meet and then publish the interview… if he replies.”
I love finding shops. Put me in a Jeep and send me on
the road. I know with in two seconds if a shop will
I Love greyhound racing; I enjoy coursing; I follow
Armagh in football. I like to travel — last year I had
three months of holidays. I am going skiing again
in March; I took it up four or five years ago. I live
the dream day to day.
Here is the email forwarded to use with this pretty poor pdf.
A real copy and paste job.
Dear Good Life Club Member
This article on John Boyle from the Sunday Times is well worth reading, and passing on to your friends.
Articles mentioning John Boyle:
Filed under: Tony Quinn |