SAZKA Group has hired London public affairs consultancy Flint Global to serve as a ‘special advisor’ as the Czech gambling conglomerate bids to become the new operating firm of the National Lottery in 2023.
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Co-founded by Sir Simon Fraser, the former Head of the UK Foreign Office, and business partner Ed Richards, ex CEO of Ofcom, Flint Global is a specialist agency in policy development for trade and economic affairs.
SAZKA’s appointment of Flint Global has garnered media attention as Sky News reports that former ‘DCMS mandarin’ Dame Sue Owen maintains an executive position within the consultancy, serving its leadership team as a ‘specialist partner’.
This April, Dame Sue ended her five-year tenure as permanent secretary to DCMS, the government agency leading the bidding process for the fourth National Lottery tender.
Dame Sue’s connection with Flint Global has raised concerns as Whitehall’s Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA) deems that senior Crown servants cannot work or advise companies or organisations on departmental policy for a period of two years following their departure from the civil service.
Flint Global maintains that Dame Sue will play no part in SAZKA’s National Lottery bid, confirming to Sky News that it is fully aware of ACOBA conditions related to her executive role.
Meanwhile, SAZKA reiterated its stance that it has yet to fully commit to participating in the UK National Lottery tender, whose outcome will likely be decided next year.
“Whilst we consider whether we will formally enter a bid, we are in communication with the UK’s Gambling Commission regarding the process and are working with various companies and advisors (of which we can confirm Flint is one),” SAZKA responded to Sky News.
Latest tender developments saw DCMS announce in May that its competition had been delayed by a further six months due to ‘lockdown uncertainties’.
Back in February, SAZKA and bidding counterpart Richard Desmond’s Northern & Shell publishing group detailed its frustrations at how the tender was being run, as bidding parties had not been issued with ‘procurement questionnaires’ by the UKGC’s competition advisory.
Prior to its COVID-19 interruption, the 2020 tender had been branded as one of UK businesses most intriguing narratives, with incumbent Camelot Group defending its 25-year reign as National Lottery operator against fierce foreign and domestic suitors.
However, 2020 unprecedented events have seen the tender’s competition dwindle as early suitor Sir Richard Branson was forced to withdraw Virgin Group’s bid after choosing to restructure his firm in light of financial difficulties.