Ladbroke declined to comment although analysts said it was by far the most likely bidder after it failed with two key expansion moves last year. It bought the Coral chain of bookmakers but was forced to sell them on by the regulatory authorities. It was also outbid by Bass for the Inter- Continental hotels chain.
Talks between Ladbroke and Stakis are thought to have started some weeks ago and have proceeded on an amicable basis. Ladbroke is thought to be interested in retaining the highly regarded Stakis management team, led by David Michels, chief executive.
The deal would create a powerful hotel and casinos group with interests spanning five- star London hotels such as the Langham Hilton to provincial casinos in smaller towns. Stakis owns 51 provincial hotels and four hotels in London including the Metropole. It also controls 22 casinos and 67 Living Well health and fitness clubs.
Ladbroke, which owns the Hilton name outside the US, has several top London hotels but just 22 mid-market Hilton hotels outside the capital. In casinos it owns some of the capital's glitzy venues such as Maxims in Kensington.
A takeover of Stakis would provide a huge windfall for the founding Stakis family, who still control around 5 per cent of the shares. The group was founded in 1942 by Sir Reo Stakis, a Greek Cypriot who moved to Glasgow and started out selling his mother's lace. Ladbroke shares closed 4.25p lower at 238.75p.Reuse content