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News : Irish Last Updated: Jan 4, 2011 - 4:12 PM

Ivan Yates' Celtic Bookmakers collapses
By Finfacts Team
Jan 4, 2011 - 4:10 PM

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Ivan Yates

Celtic Bookmakers, which was founded by broadcaster and former Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture Ivan Yates and his wife Deirdre, has collapsed.

The firm was established in Wexford in 1987 and employs 237 people.

A statement today from the directors confirmed that AIB Bank had appointed Neil Hughes of Hughes Blake accountants as receiver.

The 47 betting shops have been put on sale either as individual units or as one lot.

The directors said that while there would be “inevitable significant job losses”, they would try and retain as many of the 237 jobs as possible. Yates said he was "hopeful" of saving 100 jobs but there was no guarantee of that.

Revenue at Celtic Bookmakers plunged by an “unsustainable” 50% since mid-2007, having previously rose to an annual income of €180m and an operating profit of €4 million, the directors said in their statement.

Since then, it cut the cost base from €17m to less than €12m, including the closure of 12 loss-making shops.

Conditions in 2010 continued to worsen and prevented the company from securing a suitable merger, refinancing or restructuring despite "many months" of effort.

“Today is a profoundly sad day for our employees, for our families and for ourselves,” Yates said.

“I take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to all of our wonderful staff, managers, great customers, landlords and suppliers for their support and loyalty over the past 23 years. Like many, we did not anticipate the rapid decline in the economy, but I acknowledge that the accelerated growth of the business placed the company in a difficult position given the extent of the recession.”

The directors said any employees made redundant would get their full statutory entitlement. They said they had supported the company from their personal resources and had outstanding unpaid loans to it. They had kept their salaries to an "absolute minimum" and had not drawn any remuneration for the past three years.

"There have been no rash decisions, diversifications or investments that have contributed to the current difficulties," the statement said.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One , Yates said that his own house and the home of his 78-year-old mother had been used as collateral for bank loans and that the bank was "pursuing" this. The company owes in the region of €6m.

“From the age of 12, I’d wanted to be a bookie, so I opened a shop in Tramore in 1987 with a IR£10,000 loan from my family. I made every conceivable mistake with that shop, from having to deal with fraud, to issues on the trading side to human resources. The competition was fierce,” he told the entrepreneur site bizstartup.ie. The first shop closed down, but Yates was undeterred.

“I learned from this experience and went on to set up a number of other shops in the south east. For a long time running the business was a hobby, but I decided I should be strategic and focus on it in 2001, as I could see the industry was going to consolidate. You had Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Boylesports at the time and in my view there was room for one more significant player.”

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