Staff hit the jackpot in Scotland’s biggest employee takeover


Carlton Bingo has become the largest and newest employee-owned company in the country.

The chain’s 209 employees now have a majority stake in the company after an employee ownership trust (EOT) was set up.

The four main shareholders Chris Barr, George Carter, Brian King and Peter Perrins decided to take the plunge after considering their succession options.

Carter said, “It may sound like a cliché, but we are very much like a family business here, so selling to an EOT was exactly what we wanted.

“We have to wait a few years to realize our full value, but we felt it was a risk worth taking to preserve all that is good about Carlton for our customers and staff.

“A management buy-out was a real possibility – our management team is highly respected within the company = but that only defers the issue of succession. By transferring the shareholding to an EOT, the future of Carlton Bingo is insured for our staff and loyal customers.

Managing director Mike Watret took what he considered a temporary job after graduating from the University of Stirling in 1991. He then continued his career at Gala Bingo and returned to Carlton 10 years ago.

“I didn’t expect to come back here 30 years later. It’s a great job to work with a great team,” he commented.

At one of Carlton’s 10 bingo halls

Chief Financial Officer Leslie Ross, who has been with Carlton for nearly 30 years, said: “The combined service life of the business is over 1,500 years – we recently celebrated a 40 year service anniversary for an employee at Dunfermline – so Carlton has a great culture that fosters commitment and longevity.“

The business has been hit hard during the coronavirus crisis, with one club closed for a total of 400 days.

It has offices in Inverness, Stirling, Livingston, Dunfermline, Buckie, Elgin, Fraserburgh, Dalkeith, East Kilbride and Partick.

Watret added: “We have recovered well from what has been a difficult time – eight of our 10 sites exceeded their March targets and several surpassed their 2019 results.

“If I had any doubts that this was the right way to go, they were banished when we broke the news to employees.”

Carlton worked with Ownership Associates on employee communications, while Avondale Corporate handled the transaction, and Lindsays’ Douglas Roberts and Nimarta Cheema provided legal advice.

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