Ladbrokes and Coral Complete Historic Merger

Posted on: November 1, 2016, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: November 1, 2016, 12:38h.

Ladbrokes and Coral merger finalized
Gala Coral CEO Carl Leaver with Ladbrokes chief executive Jim Mullen on the agreement of the merger in July 2015. (Picture: Coral/Ladbrokes)

Ladbrokes and Coral, two of the UK’s biggest gambling brands, completed their £2.3 billion ($2.81 billion) merger today (Tuesday, November 1) and immediately began trading under the new name, Ladbrokes Coral Group Plc.

While the new company will continue to operate as two distinct brands, the combination will see it overtake William Hill as the UK’s biggest betting retailer, with 3,500 betting shops across the country, to Hill’s 2,400.

It’s a measure of the enlarged company’s new dominance that the competition regulator required it to sell 359 shops to smaller competitors, Betfred and Stan James, in order to safeguard the health of the market.

This process was completed several weeks ago, paving the way for the finalization.

Strong Heritage

“In uniting these two businesses we are bringing together some of the best known and admired brands in betting and gaming,” said former Ladbrokes Chairman, now Ladbrokes Coral chairman John Kelly, “We believe that no other gambling business has such a strong heritage, with brands that enjoy such broad appeal and a presence that is woven into the fabric of the UK culture as well as overseas regulated markets.

“Together, we have the opportunity to grow the business building on our scale, the digital opportunity we have in our markets, our international presence and through delivery of significant synergy savings. We have a strong management team in place and are already well placed to set about the creation of a new business with a clear focus on delivering the opportunities the completion of the merger offers us.”

Along with Kelly, Ladbrokes CEO Jim Mullen will remain CEO of the enlarged group, while Gala Coral CEO Carl Leaver will stay on for a year as executive deputy chairman.

Coral chief operating officer Andy Hornby will assume the same role for the merged company.

What Now for William Hill?

As well as cornering the retail market, the tie-in will also boost the new company’s online presence, particularly in the face of the online betting giant created by the merger of Paddy Power and Betfair.

Ladbrokes has been focusing strongly on its digital arm since reporting disappointing results in 2014.

The question is, where does this leave William Hill, which has been involved in several aborted merger and acquisition attempts over the last two years and is increasingly anxious to consolidate in the face of increasing scaled-up competition.

Most recently, a proposed merger with PokerStars parent Amaya was scuttled by a shareholder rebellion at William Hill, with the bookmaker’s largest stakeholder, hedge fund Parvus, publically calling on the board to explore a sale of the company instead.