Ashurst keeps Candover close with £2.18bn Gala – Coral deal

Silver circle firm Ashurst is back in favour with key private equity client Candover as it clinches the £2.18 billion acquisition of bookmaking chain Coral Eurobet by bingo and casino operator Gala.

The deal was backed by UK buyout firms Candover, Cinven and Permira – the joint and equal private equity owners of Gala. The firms increased their investment in the enlarged company by £275m to help finance the acquisition.

Debt was provided by Royal Bank of Scotland and Lehman Brothers, advised by Linklaters.

Latham & Watkins, led by Mike Bond, reprised its 2002 role for Coral.

Ashurst’s team was led by corporate partners Charlie Geffen and Paul Gadd
and assisted by senior corporate associate Gavin Gordon and solicitors Andrew Dailly, Lucy Lewis and Anna Legge.

International finance partners Mark Vickers and Helen Burton advised on the debt side. Tax partner John Watson, competition partner Julian Ellison (Brussels), and incentives partner Barbara Allen also advised.

The Gala-Coral combination is set become the UK’s third largest bookmaker with 1,267 licensed betting offices, a leading operator of casinos with 30 outlets and the UK’s largest bingo operator with 167 clubs. Coral Eurobet’s established online business, matched with Gala’s web based products, will also make Gala a significant online operator with strong prospects for further growth.

Gala was formed in 1997 through a £236 million buyout of Bass’s bingo arm led by John Kelly. In March 2000 it was acquired by CSFB Private Equity for £400 million and later that year it bought Ladbrokes Casinos for £235 million. Three years later Gala was acquired by Candover and Cinven for £1.24 billion, a deal on which Ashurst also advised.