Column #387 It is TRUE! There is VIDEO!
Thursday, April 1, 2010
It is TRUE! There is VIDEO!
Her name is Yvonne Whitfield. Until a chance meeting a couple of years ago I hadn’t thought of her, let alone seen her, since 1974. She recognized me. I don’t know how – I look nothing like I did all those years ago.
We dated a few times in college at Western Michigan University. She was a cashier at a Meijer Thrifty Acres store in Kalamazoo the day my roommates and I passed through her lane to pay for a couple of six-packs. She was petite and shapely but it was her British accent that caught my attention. “That’ll be $3.79,” she cooed. I was hooked.
I was too shy to ask her for a date so I placed a classified advertisement with my phone number in the student newspaper, The Western Herald. When she called I thought my roommates were playing a practical joke. But it was really her.
We went for a pizza on our first date. The next weekend we caught a flick at an old film festival – I remember it was The Lion in Winter and I was bored. Once we went to a hockey game.
But it didn’t work out. We drifted apart…
Then in November, 2008 I was in a little restaurant in Soho in the west end of London having dinner and conducting an interview with Nicola Moriarty, one of the Sky Sports walk-on girls for the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). We were interrupted when the waiter asked if my name was Paul Seigel. I looked up and said something like, “Well, yeah – but how would you know that?” He said that a lady at another table was asking…
As unbelievable as it may seem and as it still is to me today – particularly considering the events that followed – that lady was Yvonne Whitfield!
We talked for a while, laughed a bit. She told me she was married and divorced and for the past eight years employed as the joint managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi in London. I filled her in briefly on three decades of my life, introduced her to Nicola, and told her I was kind of into the darts scene. Yvonne said she was a big darts fan and followed the players so we talked for a little while about the upcoming world championship. We exchanged e-mail addresses and that was that.
I finished my dinner and interview, wrote up the column about Nicola (See Dartoid’s World Column #339), and headed home. I didn’t give any of this another thought…
Until about a year ago…
This is when the e-mail from Yvonne appeared on my computer screen. It was a very, very strange message. She wrote that she had some information which she was sure I would find interesting.
She said she was having dinner the night before at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Covent Garden and was seated next to a table of four gentlemen, two whom she recognized from the telly. She wrote that if I wanted to know more – and assured me that I did – I should call her.
What Yvonne related when we spoke was unlike anything I’d ever come across during my years around the sport of darts and, believe me when I say I have heard some pretty amazing stories. But nothing, not anything, ever, compared to this.
I could not believe it. I refused to believe it!
But she said she could prove what she was saying – that she’d done more than just eavesdrop. She said she had surreptitiously video-recorded some of what she saw and heard on her mobile and that this would at least set to rest any doubt that the individuals she said were in the restaurant were really there. She also said that when she got home she had memorialized everything she had overheard.
For my part, I was so shocked – so stunned – that the next day I arranged a flight to Heathrow. Yvonne and I met again – for the second time in thirty-five years – at the Palm Court at the Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly in Mayfair.
The moment I viewed her little video I had no doubt her story was true.
Dining together at one of the fanciest restaurants in the world and seemingly enjoying themselves were the PDC’s Barry Hearn, the British Darts Organization’s (BDO) Olly Croft, and two other people we did not recognize. Documents were spread about the table. According to Yvonne, the two strangers were at the table when she arrived at the restaurant. Shortly after she arrived Croft joined them. Just a little later Hearn arrived.
Yvonne heard a deal finalized, a deal that had clearly been hammered out in great detail prior to the meeting. So it seemed that the two unfamiliar faces were barristers and the dinner meeting was a formality to sign papers and toast what had been agreed. This turned out to be exactly the case.
The deal which Yvonne heard discussed and which she saw both Hearn and Croft secure with their signatures was for the sale of one of the two darts organizations. Although not as sensational as the actual agreement itself, the price tag was astounding – £24 million. It was to be paid in equal installments over a twelve-month period. Yvonne saw the first check for £2 million pass hands.
With the stroke of a pen and the exchange of a check the extraordinary deal was done.
Oh there was more. Yvonne heard much more but in hindsight the rest was a bit of silliness, really. To keep anyone who might suspect the secret collusion off the trail it was agreed that the two head honchos would act for the ensuing twelve months “as if all was the same as always,” continuing to say and do things that would enrage the other to respond in kind. They agreed to continue to press each other’s buttons in the press and have their minions post derogatory comments at various websites. Both had a hearty laugh about one part of their plan – for Hearn to make a very public offer to buy the BDO, which Croft would then dismiss as insulting.
As the first installment was tucked safely away behind the lapel of the one executive’s blazer the two long-time adversaries rose from their chairs, as did their legal representatives. Gleaming, the gentlemen shook hands and slapped each other’s backs. The party of four then left L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon together, presumably to reconvene up the road for several celebratory pints.
According to an inside source (Croft’s accountant, Dutchman L’irpa Sloof, who only recently agreed to go on the record – and whose signed affidavit accompanied by a Xeroxed copy of the check prompted the final go-ahead from my lawyer to post this column) the final installment of the deal has been paid.
As of this morning, the sport of darts is unified. It is also dead. The Professional Darts Corporation is now wholly owned by Olly Croft.
From the Field,
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