Full house for bingo firm as it becomes largest staff-owned business

The firm has put its shares into an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) to give employees a greater voice.

Inverness-based Carlton Bingo gives 209 staff members ownership of the firm with Employee Ownership Trust Supplied

A bingo firm has become Scotland’s largest staff-owned business after handing the reigns to more than 200 employees.

Inverness-based Carlton Bingo announced on Monday that all of its 209 staff members will be given a controlling stake in the business.

The move comes after a “positive rebound” for the ten-venue chain, following challenges and closures brought about by the pandemic.

The four major shareholders – Chris Barr, George Carter, Brian King and Peter Perrins – decided to move the company into employee ownership after considering their succession options.

“It might sound like a cliché but we are very much like a family business here”, said Carter.

The firm has put its shares into an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT), which will see its staff given a genuine say in how it is run, and prevent major disruptions to functioning.

Carter added: “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.” 

Finance director Leslie Ross highlighted the significant length of service dedicated to Carlton by many of the employees.

She said: “The combined company length of service stands at over 1,500 years.  We recently celebrated a 40 year service anniversary for one employee in Dunfermline. 

“Carlton has a great culture that fosters commitment and long service.”

Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates, who worked with directors on the programme of employee communication, said: “It was a fabulous experience meeting so many employees who are so loyal to their company and genuinely enjoy their jobs. 

“The idea of employee ownership was largely unknown by most of the staff, but once explained, was recognised as a generous gesture by the former shareholders.” 

The transaction was managed by Avondale Corporate and Douglas Roberts and Nimarta Cheema of Lindsays provided the legal advice.

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