Wednesday 28 September 2016

Bookmaker Ladbrokes parts ways with man reviewing its Irish unit

Published 25/06/2015 | 02:30

Mr Cope's departure comes as the London-listed Ladbrokes is considering a merger with privately-owned Gala Coral in the UK
Mr Cope's departure comes as the London-listed Ladbrokes is considering a merger with privately-owned Gala Coral in the UK

LADBROKES said the executive heading the bookmaker's review of its ailing Irish operations is leaving.

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Chief executive Jim Mullen said Damian Cope, who leads the company's international division, will move on because the unit is no longer necessary. Eight other people working for the unit could also lose their jobs.

Mr Cope's departure follows a review of the team's costs and efficiency, Ladbrokes added.

Ironically, Mr Cope has led a review of Ladbrokes' Irish division which was placed under examinership in April.

Plans for the Irish business remain on hold until that process is completed, Ladbrokes added yesterday as it unveiled the plans to allow the company's other overseas units to operate independently.

Before his departure was announced, Mr Cope carried out the strategic examination of the bookmaker's Irish operations codenamed 'Project Athru'.

Ladbrokes, which employs 1,400 here, told staff earlier this year that "standing still is not an option". It put the Irish unit into examinership a few weeks later. The Irish division recorded a loss last year. Ladbrokes said yesterday that it no longer needs an international division.

"Our international businesses each have strong management teams and do not require extensive support from a centrally-based international team," Mr Mullen added in a statement to the stock market.

"The resulting savings will enable us to support the increased investment in our digital business which is essential to the future of the group."

Under the plans the existing locally-based management teams in Australia, Belgium and Spain will report directly to a Ladbrokers executive in London.

Mr Cope's departure comes as the London-listed Ladbrokes is considering a merger with privately-owned Gala Coral in the UK while Dublin-based Boylesports plans a €25m-plus takeover bid to buy the Irish arm out of examinership.

Boylesports said last week that it is continuing with that bid despite losing a legal challenge seeking sensitive information about the British bookmaker's operations here.

The 'Sunday Independent' reported that Boylesports is willing to made a bid "worth substantially" more than €25m.

Boylesports may close eight of Ladbrokes' 196 Irish shops to address competition concerns, it added.

The UK bookmaker's possible merger with Gala Coral was announced on Tuesday, pushing up Ladbrokes shares by 15pc that day. Analysts said Gala Coral would bring internet expertise while Ladbrokes has more stores on the high street.

Davy Stockbrokers analyst David Jennings said the merger, which is likely to be engineered as a reverse takeover, would make the new company the number one player by shop numbers and market share in the UK.

Ladbrokes had 2,209 shops at the end of 2014 while Gala Coral had 1,834 or around 45pc of the market.

Coral is more efficient than Ladbrokes and cost cutting could improve this further, Mr Jennings added. The company would also have a significant market share in Italy.

Some analysts warned that any merger could be refused by the UK competition authorities. A proposed tie-up in the 1990s was previously rejected.

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