Gala Coral changes board as new chief is appointed

City A.M. Reporter
CASINO group Gala Coral yesterday announced the appointment of former Marks & Spencer director Carl Leaver as its new chief executive, to replace interim CEO and chairman Neil Goulden, who is leaving the company.

Leaver was the high street retailer’s director of international, home and direct businesses until 2009, having previously worked for De Vere and Whitbread. The appointment came as Goulden also stepped aside as chairman. He is being replaced by retail veteran Rob Templeman, the Debenhams chief executive who was previously at Halfords and Homebase.

In a note to clients, Seymour Pierce said: “Given recent speculation that he was leaving Debenhams, the fact that this is a non-executive role may reassure and confirm Mr Templeman’s commitment to Debenhams.

The appointments will bring some much needed stability to Gala Coral after a period which has also included a financial restructuring. The company was acquired in January by a consortium of private equity groups including Apollo, Cerberus, Park Square and York Capital Management, which finished restructuring its £2.5bn debt during the summer – including a £200m cash injection from its new owners.

Goulden took over the reins as interim chief executive abruptly in July when Dominic Harrison announced was leaving the group after six years to “seek new career opportunities”. Leaver’s arrival means all three of the UK’s leading bookmakers – Gala Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill – have changed chief executive in the past two years.

Goulden, who is being retained by the company in a consultancy role for the next three years, said: “I feel the time is now right to step down from the group. Having successfully led the group through its recent financial restructuring and helped to recruit a top-notch Chairman and CEO to work alongside our CFO, Gary Hughes, I know that I am leaving the company in good shape and in very capable hands.

“I have been with Gala Coral for 10 years and have seen it grow from being Britain’s number two bingo operator into Britain’s number one gambling company, with 10 per cent of the UK market and over 3.5m active customers.”