Teddy Sagi is living proof to refute the old adage that you can’t get rich through gambling. However, he’s no lucky poker player or sports punter. The Israeli-Cypriot-Londoner is a pioneer in the development of gambling software. He founded Playtech in 1999 and has since amassed a fortune reported by Forbes at more than five billion dollars in April 2021. Let’s find out about his story.
Teddy Sagi (טדישגיא) was born in Tel Aviv on November 7th, 1972. He is the only child of Ami and LiziSagi. Growing up, his father owned and operated a successful travel agency business, while his mother was a cosmetician and sold make up products.
As a young man, Sagi had a flair for making money, but his methods would sometimes land him in hot water. In 1994, things came to a head when the 22 year old was caught manipulating bond prices. Two years later, a court in Tel Aviv handed him a nine-month prison sentence for “grave deceit, bribery and insider trading.”
Within two years of being released from prison, Sagi founded Playtech. 22 years on, we know the company as a market leader in a multi-billion dollar industry. But back then it was a different world. Picture it from the 20th-century perspective – here’s the founder of Playtech, an online casino software provider, making his first millions powering many of the worlds premier online casinos. It must have seemed no less shady than the bonds manipulation that had led to so much trouble five years earlier.
This time, however, Sagi’s activities were entirely above board, and the entrepreneur had identified a market opening that was about to blossom. He founded Playtech in Tartu, a city in eastern Estonia, along with a select group of partners hailing from the multimedia, software engineering and casino sectors. The business has subsequently relocated to its current corporate headquarters in Douglas, on the Isle of Man.
The company’s first casino product officially launched in 2001, and in the subsequent two decades it has grown into the largest designer, developer and licensor of online and mobile gambling software in the world. Playtech’s customer list is like a who’s who of the gambling industry, and includes such names as Ladbrokes, William Hill, Bet365 and numerous others. Playtech also works directly with government bodies and regulatory authorities.
Playtech floatation and new endeavors
In March 2006, Sagi successfully floated Playtech on the London Stock Exchange at a valuation of £550 million, which at the time equated to around $950 million. Shortly thereafter, he drastically reduced his holdings, although he has remained an influential figure in guiding the company through continued growth and success.
Taking a step back, however, gave Teddy Sagi the opportunity to do what he does best – focus his attention on more emerging market opportunities. In 2012, he paid $37 million for a company called Crossrider. Formed 20 months earlier by two Israeli tech entrepreneurs, it provided a platform for browser applications. Under Sagi’s leadership, the company shifted its strategy to providing data analytics, and two years after buying it, Sagi floated the business on the London Stock Exchange at a value of $250 million. A further shift in 2016 saw Crossrider change its focus to cybersecurity and it was renamed Kape Technologies plc.
The Kape story is just one of several businesses that Teddy Sagi has acquired and transformed over the past 20 years. As well as bringing them new strategic focus and success, each deal has also added significantly to his bank balance. That’s just as well, because while Sagi has the strongest of work ethics, he lets his hair down during his time off and enjoys all the trappings of a wealthy lifestyle.
Three homes – and counting
Sagi has never lost touch with his Israeli roots. He owns what is reputed to be the most valuable home in Israel. Located in the highly affluentbeachfront neighborhood of Herzliya Pituah, the 2,000 square meter (21,500 square foot) property has jaw dropping views and a private elevator that gives residents direct access to the beach. He also owns an apartment in Knightsbridge, London, where he is usually based for business matters.
In 2009, Sagi obtained Cypriot citizenship under the island nation’s Golden Visa scheme. Traditionally, this has been seen as a popular dodge by which to gain an EU passport and thereby easy access to the rest of Europe. In all probability, that was Sagi’s original plan, but he fell in love with Cyprus and has made it his main residence for the past decade. Sagi is also rumored to have a home in Berlin and to own two luxury penthouse apartments in different parts of Tel Aviv.
All those homes are likely to get their share of use given Teddy Sagi’s ever-growing family. A couple of decades ago, he was as popular a feature of the gossip pages as he was in the business press, regularly seen in the world’s top nightclubs with supermodels on his arm.
In 2010, he started dating Yael Nizri, the winner of Miss Israel 2006. They have been together ever since, and Sagi has grown into quite the family man. They have five children together, and Sagi also has a 14 year old daughter from a previous relationship.
In a rare interview, Sagi reminded us: “Every billionaire is just a person. The most important thing is family and health.”