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Capital director's wife owns shares in casino predator

The wife of Capital Corporation's gaming director has emerged as the surprise owner of shares in London Clubs, the rival casino operator which has tabled a hostile pounds 181m takeover bid.

Capital, owner of two up-market casinos in London's Mayfair, including Crockfords, yesterday issued its formal defence document, which showed that Julie Dunkley holds 2,000 shares in London Clubs in a single-company personal equity plan.

By contrast her husband, John Dunkley, does not own a single share in Capital Corporation, though the pounds 200,000-a-year director of gaming holds 1.5 million options worth pounds 3.2m at last night's closing price of 210p, down 3p.

The defence document also shows that pre-tax profits at Capital slipped to pounds 9.2m, after an exceptional charge of pounds 2.8m, from pounds 13.1m previously.

The results were flagged in a profits warning in January when it blamed a lower volume of high-rollers, particularly at the tail-end of last year, and a lower overall win percentage in the second half for the shortfall.

Capital said the new year had started well and argued it was a more efficient operator than London Clubs, which counts the Ritz Club and Les Ambassadeurs among its seven casinos in the capital.

Capital claimed that in the past four years it made operating profits of pounds 33 on every pounds 100 of win turnover, compared with pounds 20 for London Clubs.

Capital appeared to rule out speculation it would take the Crockfords name overseas. "We are not distracted by unsuccessful, risky or speculative overseas ventures," it said.

In response London Clubs, which also has casino interests in South Africa and Las Vegas, said the comparable figure for its two top-end casinos was pounds 39 and noted that Capital's profits had fallen in each of the past four years.

"Capital Corporation's track record does not allow it to put up a credible defence," said Alan Goodenough, London Clubs' chief executive. "The company's offer document demonstrates a lack of understanding of how to maximise returns from the London gaming market."