Top execs quit Game Group as profits dive

THE chief executive and chief operating officer of Game Group stepped down yesterday after the retailer said that full-year profits had fallen by nearly a third to £90m and sales had continued to tumble.

Game, which in January issued a second profit warning just over a month after poor Christmas sales, said Lisa Morgan had stepped down as chief executive officer.

Chris Bell, the senior independent non-executive director and a former chief executive of bookmaker Ladbrokes, will replace her on an interim basis by while a new chief executive is sought.

The firm said UK chief operating officer Terry Scicluna also intends to step down but will remain for a handover period.

Game, which sells consoles and software on the high street, has suffered tough comparisons with last year when sales of Nintendo’s Wii helped to boost figures.

Lisa Morgan, who had run Game since 2006 and plotted the takeover of smaller rival GameStation, said she would “pursue other opportunities”.

For the full year ending in January, pre-tax profits fell 28 per cent to £84m, on revenues that slid 10 per cent to £1.8bn. Earnings per share declined 28 per cent from 24.1p to 17.42p, but the company raised its full-year dividend five per cent to 5.78p as it expressed confidence that changes being introduced this year would boost sales.

OUT - Lisa Morgan

OUT - Terry Scicluna

LADBROKES will receive an £80m repayment of corporation tax this year after settling a long-running dispute with the tax authorities.

The figure relates to money owed to the bookmaker for tax years up until 2007.

Analyst Nick Batram at KBC peel Hunt said: “While it doesn’t change the fundamental challenges facing the group it is another positive piece of news following the Canal+ joint venture and the exit from Italy.”

The company’s shares closed 3.4 per cent higher at 162.7p following yesterday’s announcement.

A statement from Ladbrokes said: “The finance charge in 2010 will be reduced by approximately £20m to reflect the interest consequences of the settlement.” It said it would receive the £80m in cash.

IN - Chris Bell

CHRISTOPHER Bell, a senior independent non-executive director at Game since 2003, and now acting as interim chief executive, is a former chief executive of Ladbrokes.

The executive, now 52, joined Ladbrokes in 1991 before rising to managing director just four years later. He took over the reins in 2006 and was on an estimated remuneration package of £1.5m.

Prior to joining the worldwide betting concern he had held a number of senior positions including at drinks industry giant Allied Domecq. He also serves as vice chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers, a member of the Bookmakers Committee and director of Satellite Information Services.

He was replaced at Ladbrokes by another industry heavyweight, Richard Glynn.

Bell, from Yorkshire studied business at Wolverhampton Polytechnic where he was a member of the real ale society.

Bell is also a keen card and darts player who says he hates to lose at anything.