MMC rejects top-end Mayfair casinos takeover bid

Stephenson Harwood has pronounced last week's Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) rejection of a proposed takeover of its client, casino operator Capital Corporation, as entirely predictable.

The ruling followed Trade and Industry Secretary Margaret Beckett's controversial decision to refer the £190m takeover bid by London Clubs International to the MMC.

Beckett was attacked by several commentators at the time, who predicted that the MMC would nod the merger through, since the consumers likely to be affected were largely rich foreigners.

But Stephenson Harwood partner Antony Mair, who drew up his client's submission to the MMC, said he was surprised at the controversy.

Capital Corporation owns Mayfair casinos Crockfords and The Colony, while London Clubs International owns several top-notch London clubs.

Mair's submission to the MMC stressed that the takeover would give the new company control of a majority (about 80 per cent of the takings) of the top-end casinos, which were largely concentrated in Mayfair.

He cited a 1983 ruling against a takeover that would have given Grand Metropolitan a share in the ownership of 40 per cent of London casinos.

“I really couldn't see how it could have come to any other conclusion,” Mair told The Lawyer. “If London Clubs had simply looked at the 1983 report carefully they would have seen that their chances of success were doubtful.”

Stephensons brought in economists Lexicon and a market research company to survey punters at Capital Corporation's casinos. They discovered that the majority, although they may have been foreigners, lived in their own homes in London. In addition, the research showed that they visited Mayfair clubs rather than clubs elsewhere in London, giving credence to Stephensons' contention that there was a top-end/Mayfair market.