By Ian McConnell

The 10-venue Carlton Bingo business, which employs 209 people, is moving into employee ownership.

The four major shareholders Chris Barr, George Carter, Brian King and Peter Perrins, decided to transition the business into employee ownership after considering their succession options, and acknowledged their staff’s loyalty and commitment.

Carlton Bingo, which has locations in Inverness, Stirling, Livingston, Dunfermline, Buckie, Elgin, Fraserburgh, Dalkeith, East Kilbride, and Partick in Glasgow, is said to have achieved a “positive rebound after the challenges and closures brought about by the pandemic”, with several venues ahead of their pre-pandemic performances in 2019.

The company has now put its shares into an employee ownership trust, which will see its staff given a controlling stake in the business.

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.”

Managing director Mike Watret 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.”

Finance director Leslie Ross, who has worked at Carlton for nearly 30 years, highlighted the length of service dedicated to Carlton by many of its employees, declaring: “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."