Ladbroke poised to change name in strategic rethink: Departure of Cyril Stein lets in reform at betting group

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The Independent Online
LADBROKE is discussing a change of name following the unexpected departure last week of Cyril Stein, the betting and hotel group's chairman for 37 years.

A spokesman said yesterday that associating the group with one of its divisions created confusion. Ladbroke also owns the Hilton hotel chain, Texas Homecare and Vernons, the pools company.

He confirmed that the likely name change was part of a wide- ranging review of the business by the new chief executive Peter George, who took over the top job at the beginning of the year.

Other changes will include the appointment of new divisional heads for the racing and Hilton hotels operations and the recruitment of two new non-executive directors. Mr Stein's departure has also paved the way for the dividend cut he always opposed.

The company refused to comment on speculation in the weekend press that the top racing job had already been offered to Mike Smith, a main board director at Bowater, the printing and packaging group. Mr Smith has previously been managing director of Coral, Bass's betting shops subsidiary, and head of William Hill, the bookmaker, when it was owned by Grand Metropolitan.

A change of name at Ladbroke would follow the precedent set by Kingfisher, which distanced itself from its Woolworth subsidiary in 1989 for the same reason. Like Ladbroke, Kingfisher owns a do-it- yourself chain, B&Q, as well as Superdrug and Comet.

Further strategic changes following the final severing of links with Mr Stein are expected to include a reduction of Ladbroke's pounds 1.3bn debt mountain through a partial withdrawal from property investment. The future of Texas within the group is also thought doubtful.

Last week Mr Stein announced his decision not to stay on as a non- executive director after resigning as joint managing director at the end of last year. He left with a pounds 1m compensation package, including a five- year consultancy agreement worth pounds 160,000 a year.