Written by John Davidson
Could the Wigan Warriors have a new majority owner in the shape of billionaire businessman and data king Michael – ‘Mike’ – Danson at some point in the near future?
Newspaper League Express reported that Danson is set to buy the club from Ian Lenegan, valuing it at around £10 million. Danson of course bought a 25% stake in the Super League club last year.
The Warriors have denied the story on Monday morning, Lenegan stating strongly: “There are no current plans for the Lenegan family to relinquish control of Lenegan Investments and, hence, Wigan Warriors”.
But just who is this tech entrepreneur Danson?
Well, The Times ranks him as the 128th richest person in the UK with an estimated worth of £1.17 billion. Danson was born in Wigan and raised in the nearby town of Bury. He attended Bolton Grammar school and Oxford University, where he received a Master of Arts degree, and then became a management consultant.
In 1990 he founded Datamonitor, an online information company. A decade later it was floated on the London Stock Exchange, and in 2007 it was sold to Informa for £507 million.
Meanwhile, Danson went on to co-found the data analytics and consulting company GlobalData, of which he is currently CEO and an executive director. This new company then acquired the Datamonitor’s Financial, Consumer, MarketLine and Verdict businesses from Informa in 2015 for just £25 million, making a gigantic profit.
The Financial Times described it as a “masterstroke”.
Danson is notoriously media-shy and keeps a low profile.
📸 Turning our photoshoot shots into album covers… 📀
— Wigan Warriors 🍒⚪️ (@WiganWarriorsRL) February 9, 2021
In 2018 the website Flashes and Flames described him this way: “Even insiders who are quick to identify his workaday absence of emotional empathy’ admire his analytical skills and deal-making. He doesn’t give interviews and doesn’t much care what people say.
“But behind the harsh epithets is the man who quietly built Datamonitor in his north-west London apartment and financed it from thousands of pounds run up on multiple credit cards. Danson personally made almost £200m from the sale of Datamonitor, right at the top of the market.”
In an interview with the FT in 2009 he said: “I know media, I know a bit about property, I know a bit about cash.”
Danson, reportedly a Manchester United fan, has also ventured into the world of philanthropy. In 2010 he started The Danson Foundation, a charity set up with a donation of £10 milion.
Run his wife Helen, the Foundation helps fund education for individuals from poor backgrounds. It also arranges 30 to 40 internships each year at companies Danson owns or is associated with.
He has shown left-wing or left of centre tendencies. His Progressive Media Group, which was founded in 2007, owns the New Statesman and Press Gazette media brands.
The New Statesmen is a left-leaning political magazine that has been around for more than 100 years, while Press Gazette is the industry magazine for journalists.
Despite a history in publishing Danson, who lives in London and owns Michael Jackson’s former New York mansion, doesn’t like the limelight. In 2010 The Times wrote: “He is not a typical media mogul. Uncomfortable in interviews and quietly spoken.”
Regardless of his personality, the data guru has serious wealth behind him. And he has a history of pouncing for deals when assets are depreciated or under-value, and then making a motza.
It will be interesting to watch in the months ahead whether Danson will seek to increase his stage in Wigan, one of Super League’s flagships, at a time when the competition is in transition and crying out for new investment.