Ladbrokes held a general meeting in London on Tuesday at which shareholders were asked to express their opinion on the proposed merger, which would create a betting Goliath expected to generate annual revenue of £2.3b. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor, with 96.36% of shareholders figuring, eh, why not.
That leaves only a favorable nod from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to seal the deal. The CMA is expected to compel Lads and Coral to sell off between 400 and 1,000 of their retail betting shops but other that that, the deal should be finalized by mid-2016.
Lads’ shareholders voted in favor of the merger despite the late intervention of Irish billionaire Dermot Desmond, who last week launched an online presentation urging Lads’ investors to ‘say no to Coral.’ Desmond argued that history had exposed Lads’ management as inept, but perhaps shareholders have more to fear from the Coral crowd.
Last week saw the release of the long awaited report from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into the 2008 collapse of Halifax-Bank of Scotland. Gala Coral chief operating officer Andy Hornby (pictured), who will serve a similar role in the combined Ladbrokes-Coral entity, was CEO of HBOS in the years leading up to its implosion, and was one of the top execs the report singled out as “ultimately responsible” for the risky deals that resulted in HBOS’ failure.
The report recommended that Hornby and the other execs it deemed to have financial blood on their hands be banned from any future role in the financial services sector. The report also recommended more investigation should be conducted to determine if the execs’ actions warranted criminal charges. A 2013 Parliamentary Commission report recommended that Hornby not be allowed to hold a senior role in any publicly traded firm.
In response to the FCA report, Gala Coral issued a statement saying Hornby had been “a key member of Gala Coral Group’s management team for nearly five years.” During this time, Hornby had “earned the continuing support of our colleagues, management and shareholders.” Gala Coral said it was “not in a position to comment on events relating to another organization and sector some eight years ago.”