Story of Cookstown’s ‘billion dollar’ man hasn’t gone unnoticed in Hollywood

FanDual CEO Nigel Eccles, who grew up on a farm outside Cookstown
FanDual CEO Nigel Eccles, who grew up on a farm outside Cookstown

The story of a Cookstown man who started an online gaming company with his wife that is now worth billions, could soon be on the big screen.

Nigel Eccles and his wife Lesley, who live in Edinburgh with their two young children, put everything on the line to get their internet start-up FanDuel off the ground.

And it would seem theirs is a story Hollywood would like to tell, as Tristar Pictures has optioned film rights to a book by Sports Illustrated journalist Albert Chen about the rise of FanDuel, and its relationship with competitor, Draftkings.

The Mail has previously reported on the rise of Eccles, 41, who is now CEO of the company he co-founded with Lesley, whom he met at St Andrews University in 1995.

After giving up their jobs, the pair put all their savings on the line in 2009 and worked without pay for over a year - and now the company is valued at over $1billion.

In the US, over a million use the FanDuel website to try and win prize money from a multi-million dollar pot as they put their skills to the test in the fantasy game market.

In 2014 alone, $500m was paid out in winnings on four professional US sports - American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey, as well as college basketball and college football.

In the US online betting is not legal but because FanDuel is fantasy it is viewed as a game of skill, not chance.

Now Chen’s soon-to-be-published book ‘The Big Game’ will outline the battle for billions between FanDuel and a rival company set up Americans Mark Cuban and Robert Kraft and fronted by CEO Jason Robins.

Although stories about business don’t always work on the big screen, it is understood Tristar believes ‘The Big Game’ could have the same cinematic appeal as last year’s hugely successful ‘The Big Short’.

And Oscar-winner Jeremy Renner, who has appeared in American Hustle, Captain America, Avengers and the Bourne Legacy, is being tipped to play Eccles - who grew up on a farm just outside Cookstown.

The rise of FanDuel and its rival is one of the biggest recent stories in US sport, but the firms have now moved into the UK market as well.