Gala Coral group has announced major management changes

The online and land UK gambling group Gala Coral has announced major management changes planned for the near future. Chief Operating Officer Dominic Harrison is promoted to chief executive officer with effect from October 1. He will replace Neil Goulden who moves out of the position after five years to become executive deputy chairman pending the departure within the next year of current chairman and founder John Kelly, when he will take Kelly's place.

Until then, Goulden will focus on developing the Gala Coral international operations – it has a presence in Italy and China – and dealings with regulatory and governmental bodies.

Harrison (45) who is married with three children, was head boy at Ampleforth College, then studied modern history at University College, Oxford. He qualified as an accountant with KPMG in 1988 before joining GrandMet then Bass in a variety of marketing and operational roles, going on to become commercial director at Ladbrokes before joining Gala in 2004 as trading director, and playing a leading role a year later in the purchase of Coral.

"After successfully completing a restructuring of the group's banking arrangements in May of this year, and the establishment of a new five year plan, I am very excited about the growth opportunities now available to the group," Harrison said.

As chief operating officer, Harrison was responsible for Gala Bingo, Gala Casinos, Gala Coral E-Commerce, Italy, International Development, Group Marketing and Electronic Gaming.

He became chief operating officer last (2007) year, appointed by the owners of the group, private equity investors Candover, Cinven and Permira, who recently injected GBP125 million of new equity into the company to relieve the pressure on its banking covenants. That refinancing was led by Harrison and he is said to have been the architect of the new five-year plan that accompanied it.

The group is also currently searching for a new Chief Financial Officer to replace present incumbent Matthew Roberts, who advised in April that he wished to leave the company.

Gala Coral, which operates 1 600 UK betting shops, 157 bingo clubs and 28 casinos, portrayed its shake-up as the implementation of a long-held succession strategy, saying Kelly had some time ago signalled his desire to move on in 2009.

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