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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Worthless history

Four years ago, PartyGaming launched an internet poker website offering gamblers around the world the chance to bet anonymously and safely in a friendly on-line environment for almost any stakes they wish. The company makes its profits from its "rake" from the pot - a maximum 2 per cent deduction of all the wagers placed during a hand.

PartyGaming has grown from a company employing a handful of staff in 2001 to one which today employs 1,000 people and which last year made a profit before interest, tax and depreciation of more than $350m (£184m).

This summer PartyGaming is expected to float on the London Stock Exchange - and analysts are predicting that it will be worth a remarkable £3bn.

Most companies planning a stock market listing are keen to get as much publicity as possible. PartyGaming's four co-owners prefer to let the company's results do their talking while they remain in the shadows, and based in Gibraltar, where the Government has a relaxed attitude to gambling regulations.

For the past four years, the founders of the company - two American and two Indian entrepreneurs - have fiercely guarded their privacy. They rarely give interviews and three of the four refuse to release photographs of themselves while their names are conspicuously absent from the website,

So who are the three men and one woman, all in their 30s, behind what is arguably the greatest business success story of the 21st century? And what do they each, in poker parlance, bring to the table?

If her past is any guide to the future, Ruth Parasol can expect to make a fortune in future from sloth, gluttony, envy, pride, and wrath. To date, she has centred her business interests on two of the seven deadly sins - lust and greed - and they have provided her with riches beyond the dreams of most people.