By Ian McConnell

Business Editor

AN Edinburgh-based business backed by Scottish tennis star Sir Andy Murray has nearly doubled its valuation in just a matter of months to £18 million, based on the terms of its last two funding rounds.

The company, which aims to create hundreds of courts in the UK for fast-growing sport padel, said yesterday it had been valued at £18m in a £3m fundraising involving retail and institutional investors. It also revealed approaches from potential partners keen to collaborate “in multiple countries in Europe and further afield”.

Game4Padel, which describes the sport as a “tennis-squash hybrid…with four players in a glass-enclosed court about one-third the size of a tennis court”, had been valued at £10m in its previous funding round unveiled in August last year.

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A spokesman for the company said it could not comment when asked if Sir Andy had participated in the latest funding round.

The spokesman noted that Sir Andy is among “current ambassadors”, along with tennis veterans Annabel Croft and Andrew Castle and former Welsh rugby player Jonathan Davies.

He added that these ambassadors had been joined recently by Tia Norton, the first British woman to compete on the World Padel Tour.

The spokesman revealed there were now more than 70 investors in the business, adding that Game4Padel’s board and its ambassadors “together own over 50%” of the company.

When Sir Andy announced he was adding to his investment portfolio with a stake in Game4Padel in May 2019, the Wimbledon, US Open and Olympic champion said: “It’s great for young people to play a variety of sports and padel is a fast-paced game which is excellent for developing hand-eye co-ordination and racket skills.”

Game4Padel said it already operates more venues for the sport than any other UK provider.

It added that it “plans to cement its position as the dominant player in a rapidly expanding domestic market by building up to 300 new courts within the next five years”.

The company spokesman said Game4Padel now had 23 venues “operating or secured”. He noted the number of courts per venue could “vary from one to 12”.

He added that Game4Padel was in “active discussions” regarding more than 50 other venues.

In Scotland, two venues are open, three are secured and there are active negotiations with about 10 others, the spokesman noted.

Asked about employee numbers, he said the “core Game4Padel team” is about 10 but added: “That is likely to increase materially during 2022 as venues open.”

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Game4Padel said its fourth successful fundraising round in less than three years had attracted a mixture of debt and equity capital “that will help the company accelerate its plans to develop a UK-wide network of playing facilities for padel, one of the world’s fastest-growing participation sports”.

It declared that, in padel, “players serve underhand, making it easier to play”.

The company has raised £5.5m in total since it was founded at the end of 2018.

Game4Padel’s co-founders include Jim McMahon, chairman of football club Motherwell. Mr McMahon, a co-founder of Ayrshire entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter’s West Coast Capital investment business, is chairman of Game4Padel.

Revealing its consideration of expanding overseas, Game4Padel said: “The company has…recently received several approaches from credible organisations keen to partner with Game4Padel in other countries around the world, giving management reason to consider the merits of expanding its operations overseas in the next few years.”

Mr McMahon said: “We have had a number of interesting approaches from potential partners keen to collaborate in multiple countries in Europe and further afield. As encouraging as it is to be gaining recognition abroad, we will take a measured view over time depending on market potential, existing competition, and the strength of those potential partners in the relevant locations. For now, we remain focused on the UK market, where there is more than enough work in the pipeline to keep us busy.”

Michael Gradon, another co-founder of Game4Padel and the company’s chief executive, was on the board of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which owns and runs the Wimbledon Championships, for many years, stepping down in December 2019.

The other co-founders of Game4Padel are Peter Gordon, a chartered quantity surveyor who has worked for Tennis Scotland and SportScotland and founded the Thistle Padel Club in Edinburgh, and tennis coach Vincent Hivert.

The company said yesterday that Mr Gordon and Mr Hivert had been “promoted” to new roles. Mr Gordon is now chief operating officer, and Mr Hivert is growth and participation director.

Game4Padel noted it had in November announced a new partnership with golf’s governing body, The R&A.

Three covered padel courts will be included in The R&A’s new community golf facility in Glasgow, in addition to shorter-form golf courses, adventure golf and a 52-bay, double-decker, floodlit driving range.

Game4Padel added: “The two companies have also committed to a long-term partnership to identify new potential sites where a similar, mutually beneficial model might be feasible.”

The Edinburgh company said it “partners with a wide range of venues, including sports clubs, leisure centres, parks, schools, universities and, increasingly, commercial venues”.

Game4Padel declared that its “capital and technical expertise" enabled it to "finance, install, maintain and operate padel courts in any setting”.