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They made a fortune trading in the Russian aluminium industry, and have used their money to build up a huge range of property and business interests that week by week seem to have grow’d like Topsy. In racing they have owned and operated the Northern Racing group of 10 racecourses for several years, and have been sniffing around Arena Leisure for the last couple of years.
In the lull between Cheltenham and Aintree, they finally received the go ahead for a takeover, when the Office of Fair Trading rules that there was no need to refer the proposed bid to the Competition Commission. The deal takes the Northern Racing portfolio up to 17 tracks.
The other major racecourse owner, Jockey Club Racecourses, runs 10 circuits, whilst the remaining 36 venues are independently operated. Essentially the OFT decision acknowledges that a takeover of Arena Leisure would not reduce significantly competition between the two groups in the “provision of horseracing” market.
The Reuben Brothers investment company, Aldersgate, has acquired a company that is on the up. In 2011 Arena Leisure profits were up by over 14% to £4.2m, and attendances at its racecourses grew by almost 8% to 683,000, a record for the organisation. If that’s equalled this year, then there will be well over 1.6m paying customers at the Northern Racecourse meetings.
For some, though, the move puts them out of a job, though the financial payouts will go some way to keeping them off the streets for a while. Between them, Arena chief executive Mark Elliott and finance director Tony Harris will pick up around £2.5m in lump sum redundancy and share payments. The rest of the Arena senior management team have moved over to the new business.