John Kelly OBE returns to Gala Coral Group as company plans to rebrand

As the United Kingdom’s largest bingo chain, Gala Leisure receives a lot of attention, especially when it comes to recruitment. So, it’s no surprise that many media outlets are picking up on the fact the company has just hired industry legend John Kelly OBE to be their non-executive chairman as of 4 June 2018.

Kelly is best known for founding the Gala Coral Group, after leading a management buy-in from Bass plc worth £300 million back in December 1997. Before this, Kelly was the Director of Mecca Leisure plc between 1984 and 1992, industry experience that surely helped him and Gala Coral Group become the successes they are in the present day. For several years, Kelly served as CEO until 2004 when he became Executive Chairman, a role he served until he left Gala Coral Group in 2007.

It was during this time that Kelly was given the title of OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, as his services to the gambling industry were already receiving legendary status. Kelly became the Non-Executive Director of Ladbrokes Coral Group in 2010, serving as their Senior Independent Non-Executive Director until December 2015, when he was named Chairman. This only changed after the company was bought by their online competitors GVC in April 2018, a merger that Kelly himself led in association with the company’s Board.

Recruiting Kelly is certainly a smart move for Gala Leisure, especially since the company is currently undergoing a £40 million overhaul and plans to rebrand itself as Buzz Bingo. These changes will focus largely on adapting the company’s pre-existing online presence, as well as the company’s impressive portfolio of 124 bingo halls. Collectively, it is reported that these Gala Leisure establishments have over 1.1 million customers and yet the company wishes to rebrand in an attempt to attract younger bingo players.

Already, we are seeing the brand transition from Gala to Buzz Bingo, with clubs in both Peterborough and Castleford holding the new name. The online site is also already up and running, with a New Member Offer (only £10 to play and a free drink) available for anyone interested in attending one of their newly-branded clubs.

When asked about Kelly, chief executive of Gala Leisure Chris Matthews stated that the bingo industry veteran had a “deep understanding” of both bingo and gaming as a whole. “As we begin our new strategy and look towards online in the future,” Matthews explains. “We are delighted to bring John back to where he started, having founded Gala operations.”

Matthews continues by explaining that he and Kelly share the same vision for Buzz Bingo and believe that the plan to rebrand has huge potential. When asked about this, Kelly stated: “I believe we have a strong strategic plan and a strong team, led by Chris Matthews, and that he will lead this company to success in the future.”

“Gala Leisure has always been a fantastic company with great people,” Kelly told the press. “It is an honour to take on the role of Non-Executive Chairman of the Board and engage with a business with which I have been closely involved in the past.”