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Moray staff join Scotland's largest employee takeover

By Ewan Malcolm

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A BINGO business with branches in Moray has become Scotland's largest and latest employee-owned firm.

The Carlton Bingo hall in Elgin.
The Carlton Bingo hall in Elgin.

Carlton Bingo has 17 employees at its Elgin branch and nine at its Buckie branch with both part of the ten-venue chain that has made the move to employee ownership following the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

The business is the first gaming company in the UK to move to employee ownership.

The company has now put its shares into an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) which will see staff given a controlling stake in the business.

Chris Barr, George Carter, Brian King and Peter Perrins, the business's four major shareholders, decided to move to employee ownership after considering succession options and acknowledging their staff's loyalty and commitment.

George Carter said: "It might sound like a cliché but we are very much like a family business here. The sale to an EOT fitted exactly with what we wanted.

"We have to wait a few years to realise our full value, but we judged that to be a risk worth taking to preserve all that’s good about Carlton for our customers and our staff.

"A management buyout was a real possibility – our management team are hugely respected within the business – but that really only defers the problem of succession.

"By transferring the shareholding to an EOT, the future of Carlton Bingo is secure for our loyal staff and customers."

The company was hit significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic with one club being closed for a total of 400 days.

Mike Watret, Managing Director, said: "We have recovered well from what was a challenging time. Eight of our 10 locations exceeded their targets for March and several are outperforming their 2019 results.

"This is testament to the hard work and loyalty of our staff who have done a sterling job in ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for our customers.

"If I had any doubts that this was the right way forward, they were banished when we delivered the news to the employees. There are challenges ahead, but with our great team here I’m confident that we’ll overcome them."

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