Royals’ favourite bookie to be sold to Foxy Bingo

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The world’s oldest bookmaker looks set to be bought by an online upstart based in the Isle of Man, for up to £3.9billion.

Ladbrokes Coral, which dates back to 1886 and was known as the Queen Mother’s favourite bookie, is in talks about a possible takeover by Foxy Bingo owner GVC Holdings.

The final price will depend on the outcome of the Government review into fixed-odds betting terminals – dubbed the crack-cocaine of gambling because they are so addictive.

Ladbrokes Coral, which dates back to 1886 and was known as the Queen Mother's favourite bookie, is in talks about a possible takeover by Foxy Bingo owner GVC Holdings

Ladbrokes Coral, which dates back to 1886 and was known as the Queen Mother’s favourite bookie, is in talks about a possible takeover by Foxy Bingo owner GVC Holdings

If ministers cut the maximum bet on the machines from the current £100 to £2, GVC will pay £3.1billion for Ladbrokes Coral, while the price will rise to £3.9billion if the cap is reduced to £50.

Ladbrokes Coral shares jumped 29 per cent while GVC gained 5per cent. William Hill was also on the rise, up 8.1 per cent, as investors bet on further consolidation in the industry.

The proposed deal – following on-off talks between the two over the past year – came just 24 hours after shopping centre owners Hammerson and Intu unveiled plans to join forces and create a £21billion property empire.

FACT BOX TITLE

  • 1886 Year Ladbrokes was founded
  • 2004 Year Foxy Bingo owner GVC was founded
  • 3,500 Number of Ladbrokes Coral betting shops
  • £40bn Bets placed every year at Ladbrokes Coral
  • £4bn Bets placed every year at GVC
  • £3.9bn Ladbrokes Coral value

The flurry of takeover activity looks set to trigger a fees bonanza for City advisers.

A tie-up between Ladbrokes Coral and GVC would create a £6.8billion giant that would dwarf rivals including William Hill, Bet365 and Paddy Power Betfair.

GVC, which was set up in 2004 and only made the leap from AIM to the FTSE 250 last year, already owns brands including Sportingbet, Bwin, Party Poker and Foxy Casino. 

But a takeover of more than 3,500 betting shops would be its biggest deal yet and mark a major milestone for online gaming tycoon Kenny Alexander.

The 48-year-old Scot has built GVC into a £3billion titan through acquisitions since becoming chief executive in 2007, and will keep the top job if the deal goes through. 

He was paid £19.5million last year and owns GVC shares worth £18million. 

History: Ladbrokes Coral, which dates back to 1886, was known as the Queen Mother's favourite bookie

History: Ladbrokes Coral, which dates back to 1886, was known as the Queen Mother's favourite bookie

History: Ladbrokes Coral, which dates back to 1886, was known as the Queen Mother’s favourite bookie

But the takeover would spell the end for Ladbrokes Coral chief executive Jim Mullen, who oversaw the £2.3billion merger of Ladbrokes and Coral last year and has long warned of further consolidation in the industry.

Noting the rise in share prices, Mullen, 47, who was paid £1.3million last year and could net a windfall of up to £4.6million, said: ‘The market has spoken. This deal is great for both sets of shareholders.’

Morgan Stanley analyst Ed Young said the combined group could make savings of up to £100million a year.

‘We think the combination makes sound strategic sense,’ he said. ‘It would create a more diversified group.’

But Barclays’ Patrick Coffey said: ‘The biggest risk is that the technology integration reduces the focus on new product development. 

‘A large-scale technology integration will be fraught with potential challenges.’

SHAMED BANKER TO MAKE £10M

The disgraced banker who oversaw the demise of HBOS is in line for a windfall of nearly £10million from the proposed sale of Ladbrokes Coral.

Andy Hornby, 50, chief executive of Halifax Bank of Scotland when it was saved from collapse in the financial crisis, is now chief operating officer at the 131-year-old bookie.

He has 4.83m shares in Ladbrokes that were worth £8.5million at last night’s closing price of 175.1p. 

But a successful takeover by GVC could see the price tag rise to 203.7p a share – making his holding worth £10million. 

Hornby, whose pay at Ladbrokes is a secret because he does not have a seat on the board, looks set for a top job.

‘I definitely want Andy Hornby to stay and have a very senior role in an enlarged group,’ said GVC chief executive Kenny Alexander.

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