Ladbrokes Shareholders Back Gala Coral Merger

Ladbrokes shareholders voted in favor of the proposed merger with rival UK gambling company Gala Coral Group at an extraordinary meeting held earlier today, despite Irish businessman Dermot Desmond’s vocal criticism of the deal.

Mr. Desmond has been shareholder in the gambling operator for the past nine years and currently owns a 2.8% stake in it. Last week, the Irish billionaire attacked Ladbrokes’ management team in an open letter to media, saying that the proposed Gala Coral merger would be bad for the company. He also pointed out that Coral shareholders will be the ones to benefit the most from the deal. Mr. Desmond urged fellow shareholders not to approve the transaction.

The Irish business said after today’s meeting that he had spoken to several Ladbrokes investors and they had told him they had understood his points. According to Mr. Desmond, shareholders voted in favor of the merger out of frustration with the company’s current management team and board members. He further noted that he shares their frustration, “but not their resignation.”

Although the Irish businessman tends to stay out of public notice, he has been quite vocal on the possible merger between Ladbrokes and Gala Coral. He told media that shareholders and the company as a whole would once again fall victim of “management ineptitude,” calling board members’ performance over the past several years “abysmal.”

Mr. Desmond asked for a second vote on the merger, once the UK Competition and Markets Authority completes its review of the proposed £2.3-billion deal. However, Ladbrokes Chairman Peter Erskine dismissed the idea.

During today’s meeting, the Irish businessman also expressed concerns that the gambling company is likely to be required to dispose of some of its betting shops as part of the deal. According to gaming analysts, Ladbrokes may have to sell or close up to 1,000 shops, which, in turn, would results in lost earnings of more than £70 million.

Mr. Desmond also noted that perhaps smarter deals could have been done than merging the company’s operations with rival Gala Coral’s. It could be said that the businessman half-suggested that he may even buy Ladbrokes, if he is offered low enough prize. According to the Irish billionaire, “every company is worth bidding for” at a certain price.

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