By J A McGrath

Betfair, the betting industry’s most successful exchange, are to buy Timeform in an estimated £15m deal expected to be completed next week.

The move to acquire Halifax-based Portway Press Ltd, which publishes Timeform and other related racing publications, by the company that has revolutionised betting in this country and beyond in the last five years underlines the ambitions of a rapidly-expanding business.

It is understood Betfair have been seeking to snap up a form and ratings database for their website as they aim to further develop their service – and Timeform, regarded by many as the punters’ bible, have long been searching for a cash injection to upgrade technology and expand.

Close observers believe the two companies are compatible – Timeform have taken pride in retaining their objectivity while Betfair claim they would far prefer their punters to keep winning in order to maintain their custom.

The 70 staff at Portway Press have been told of the offer and it is understood that no major changes are proposed.

Timeform was founded six decades ago by Phil Bull, who wanted to establish a mathematical link to a horse’s performance, based on the time the horse recorded. At a period when such data was virtually unheard of, Bull started publishing a racing annual, which evolved into the universally popular ‘Racehorses Of..’ series. This is still greatly in demand, not just from punters but also the bloodstock world.

Portway Press has largely been a highly-successful family firm, though Bull’s successor Reg Griffin, the current chairman, was not related to the founder. Based on old-fashioned values, the Timeform brand has long represented integrity and Betfair would be fully aware they are purchasing that. Jim McGrath, the Channel-4 racing pundit, is managing director.

More than five years ago an offer – believed to be around the £10m mark – was rejected by Portway Press but this latest approach is odds-on to succeed.