Financial News

  • 9 April 2014, 12:27

Former Comet Owner Has Eyes Down For Gala Bid

The controversial former owner of the electrical goods retailer Comet is assembling an offer to gain control of the Gala chain of bingo halls.

Sky News understands that Henry Jackson, founder of the investment firm Opcapita, has contacted Gala Coral to register his interest in bidding for the business, which is expected to be put up for sale later this year.

Mr Jackson's involvement in the auction will pit him against private equity groups and individuals including Luke Johnson, the former Channel 4 chairman, whose firm Risk Capital Partners is among the other likely bidders.

Prospective buyers have stepped up their interest in Gala since the surprise move by George Osborne, the Chancellor, to announce a halving of bingo duty in last month's Budget.

Gala Coral's board has appointed Lazard, the investment bank, to oversee an auction of Gala, which operates approximately 140 sites across the UK.

Analysts believe the business is likely to fetch in the region of 250m, although the actual figure may be higher following the Chancellor's Budget pronouncement.

Mr Jackson's name has attracted controversy since the collapse of Comet in November last year, which caused thousands of job losses.

It prompted Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, to launch an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the chain's failure, while Opcapita is understood to have made 70m from its investment in the retailer.

Opcapita has also owned retailers including MFI, the kitchens chain, and is a current investor in Game Group, which is preparing a stock market listing in the coming months.

The investment firm has tended to raise money to fund its deals on an individual basis, but has more recently been trying to raise a longer-term fund.

The Comet inquiry undertaken by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has yet to be concluded and it is unclear whether or when its findings will be made public.

Mr Jackson, who frequently appears in tabloid newspapers alongside his musician wife Stacey, sold MFI just two months before it fell into administration in 2008.

A former executive at Deutsche Bank, he is understood to have amassed personal wealth running to millions of pounds from a string of deals.

A spokeswoman for Opcapita declined to comment.