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Arena jobs safe under Northern deal

15 February 2012

MANAGEMENT and staff at Arena Leisure have been assured their jobs will be safe when the planned takeover by Reuben Brothers, owners of fellow racecourse group Northern Racing, goes ahead.

The commitment by Aldersgate, the British Virgin Islands-incorporated vehicle that David and Simon Reuben use for property-related investments, is contained in the latest offer document released yesterday, as part of a process that is expected to be wrapped up by the end of next month.

Although the material is principally for the benefit of those shareholders who have not yet committed to the deal and will vote on March 7, it provides comfort for Arena employees.

The document notes: "Aldersgate does not expect that there will be any changes to the management and employees of the Arena group," and adds that existing employment conditions, including pension rights, will be safeguarded.

It adds: "Aldersgate attachesgreat importance to the skills and experience of Arena's existing management team and employees, and recognises that they will be key to the continued success of Arena."

Aldersgate, whose sole directors, Alexander Bushaev and David McNeil, share a business address in Geneva, has said Northern and Arena will be operated under one umbrella management organisation. How that will play out in reality has yet to be revealed, although it is expected there will be one operating board, including responsibility for financial, racing and commercial elements.

The Arena board, led by chairman David Thorpe and fellow non-executives Andrew Parker Bowles and Andrew Page, will be disbanded on completion.

Chief executive Mark Elliott and finance director Tony Harris have agreed compensation of a year's salary and benefits, leaving racing director Ian Renton as the most senior link with Arena.

The process remains conditional on the outcome of an investigation by the Office of Fair Trading, which this week asked for observations from interested parties.

If the OFT does not refer the offer to the Competition Commission, and no other credible bid emerges in themeantime- neither of which those closest to the matter expects to happen - and the bulk of shareholders align with the commitment of majority stakeholder Trevor Hemmings, the takeover will become effective on March 30.

Arena shares would be delisted on the Stock Exchange three days later, and the whole process completed by July 13 at the latest.

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