Praesepe Personnel

The Executive Team

Nick Harding – Chief Executive

Nick, 56, has over 35 years’ experience in the gambling sector, having worked in a number of senior positions for Coral, Bass Leisure and Rank Group before leading the MBO of the RAL business from Rank in 1996. RAL Limited became the leading operator in the AGC sector, with 129 venues, and in 2004, this was sold to Talarius plc with Nick becoming CEO. Over the next two years, the business grew to over 200 venues together with an integrated and proprietary online business. This was sold to European Gaming Limited in 2007 and subsequently de-listed from AIM.

In September 2007 he established Praesepe plc as an AIM listed company mandated to acquire going concern businesses in the European low stake high volume “gaming sector” and in five years grew the business from a cash shell to operating 160 gaming venues (including the UKs largest Bingo club and an on-line Bingo business) in the UK and employing over 1900 people. In 2012 the Praesepe business was sold to the German Gauselmann Group and Nick now manages the Praesepe business for Gauselmann in the UK.

Nick is a past President of the trade association BACTA and is currently a Trustee of the Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT).  He was a Director of Business in Sport and Leisure, and is a Director of the UK Bingo Association. He was also the founding Chairman of iGGBA, the UK’s first interactive gaming association. He has been Chairman of the Gambling Business Group since its inception in 2013.

Byron Evans – Commercial Director

pp_byronByron has been employed in the property and gaming industry’s most of his working life.

Most recently, whilst at Talarius plc as Commercial Director, he was involved in the initial fund raising that saw RAL Ltd reversed into Talarius and the successful acquisition of 5 separate businesses – with specific responsibility for all Property, Licensing,  Health & Safety and Compliance issues.

His career has included time with Rank, Sega and the worlds largest independent chain of bureau de change, where he developed the business in Spain, France and the USA.

He holds a Personal Management Licence from the Gambling Commission and a Personal Liquor Licence.

In his spare time Byron is an avid movie-goer and also admits to having been a Holiday Camp entertainer in his teens.

Steve Ambrose – Operations Director Cashino

pp_steveHaving worked in the Gaming Industry since the age of 18 across both Bingo and AGC sectors, Steve Ambrose has an immense knowledge of the industry sector with much of his experience being gained from a ground up perspective.

In 1990 as an 18 year old Steve began his gaming career as a team member at his local Bingo Hall in Wembley and then rapidly rose through the ranks until his 1st General Manager Appointment at the age of 22. In 1996 he moved to Beacon Cricklewood where he became House Manager before swapping the bingo life for that on an Area Manager looking after the AGC part of Thomas Estates.

Currently occupying the position of Operations Director for Praesepe, Steve joined the team in 2010 as part of the Thomas Estates Accusation and has been an integral part of the Praesepe business development ever since.

Away for the industry Steve enjoys his family life with his wife Kerry and 2 Children Abbie and Jack with much of the family time spent either at or on the way to a football or sporting event.

Simon Gudgeon – Operations Manager North – AGCs

pp_simonSimon has close to 30 years’ experience in the gaming and leisure industry. Starting as a graduate trainee in bingo with Gala Coral he quickly became a General Manager, before moving on to Regional and Department Head roles within Rank Amusements, Top Rank and Odeon Cinemas.

Returning to the coin op sector in January 2014, Simon is now Operations Manager for Praesepe, responsible for some 90 venues stretching from Dundee to Plymouth.

A keen sportsman and outdoor enthusiast, away from work he can often be found on the golf course, his bike or in the garden, growing things that no-one else wants to eat!
Married to Louise for over 20 years, his two children Katie and Matthew are at and about to go to university.

Jeni McLaren – Operations Manager South – AGCs

Jeni commenced her career in leisure and hospitality in operational roles through to her mid-twenties, working in pubs, clubs and hotels. Her career path changed direction in the early nineties, joining the Rank Group as an HR Administrator and progressing to the role of HR & Training Officer before joining Nick Harding as HR Manager at RAL Limited in 1997, following the MBO of the inland AGC estate from the Rank Group.

Jeni remained with RAL, subsequently renamed Talarius, for a period of 10 years, achieving promotion to HR Director in 2004 and developing a commercially focussed HR team to partner the 200 strong AGC operation, which was successfully sold to the Tattersall/Macquarie partnership at the peak of its success.

Following a 3 year departure from the leisure sector to work in the law sector and subsequently secondary education, Jeni rejoined Nick Harding as part of his senior team at Praesepe in 2010 and has been instrumental in managing the significant growth of the business through acquisition to the Group’s current position as the second largest operator of AGCs in the UK. Jeni is now operations manager for Praesepe & responsible for ninety venues mainly in the London area.

Outside of work, Jeni lives with her teenage son, Harry, in rural Northamptonshire, devoting most of her time to property renovation and supporting her son’s sporting aspirations in both football and racket sports.

Nigel Davis – Head of Gaming Machines

pp_nigelNigel Davis has worked in the Gaming Industry all his working life, some 34 years, across both AGC and Bingo sectors, he has an in-depth knowledge of the industry very much from the bottom up.

In 1980 as a 17 year old he joined the Beacon Bingo, in his hometown of Loughborough, as a Bingo Operative. Where his hands on, and can do approach soon had him rising through the ranks, under the watchful eye of Jimmy Thomas. Nigel became Showboat Holdings youngest Regional Manager at the age of 21, and ultimately heading up the Machines and Technical Department for Thomas Estates Ltd.

He is currently the Head of Gaming Machines for the Praesepe group, and joined the team in 2010 as part of the Thomas Estates acquisition. He has been at the heart of the Praesepe Machines Department, ever since, working closely with all manufacturers and Industry bodies.

Away from the office Nigel enjoys family life with his wife Kerry and 2 Children Abbie and Harry, hobbies include cooking and Moto GP.

Phil Gibbs – Operations Manager Beacon Bingo

pp_philPhil has now been in the gaming industry for 34 years having started as a Trainee Manager with Coral Bingo Blackpool back in 1982.

Having served numerous roles with Coral & Gala Clubs across the North West Phil joined RAL (now Talarius) in 2000 as Marketing Manager with specific responsibility for the Quicksilver estate. In 2008 Phil joined the newly formed Praesepe Group as Marketing Consultant and was later promoted to Group Marketing Manager reporting directly to the Commercial Director.

In 2016 Phil was appointed to the senior team at Praesepe reporting direct to Nick Harding CEO.

In 2017 Phil assumed responsibility for the Beacon Bingo Division which includes Cricklewood considered the biggest bingo club in Europe.

In his spare time Phil enjoys the movies and considers himself a keen Arsenal FC fan and fanatical follower of the rock group Queen.

Phil has been married to Debbie for 18 years and has one son called Alec.

Vicky Grier – Head of HR

Vicky joined us with a wealth of HR experience from a variety of sectors including retail and entertainment.
Having started her career as a retail department manager Vicky moved into a receptionist role, with a food manufacturer, as she wanted a new challenge. She was quickly snapped up to work in the personnel team and developed in her HR career by going back to university two nights a week to gain her CIPD qualifications.

She’s run Graduate Recruitment Campaigns, devised reward and recognition programmes, worked in within a wider team turned around an underperforming business, developed customer service programmes, designed leadership development and dealt with too many tricky ER cases to mention. Vicky hadn’t completed a TUPE Transfer until she joined Praesepe, but she’s got a few of those under her belt now and we can safely say there’s not much in the HR arena she hasn’t done!

A couple of breaks in her career meant Vicky qualified as a counsellor, a gym instructor as well as an exercise to music instructor.

When she’s not bouncing around at work, in a class or working with her clients Vicky likes to spend time with her husband Richard.

Simon Coombes – Marketing Manager

Simon has worked in the gaming industry since leaving University in 2002. Starting his career on the Graduate Gala Management programme in Nottingham before moving to London where Simon spent most of his Gala career. From a trainee to club manager Simon has run many clubs for Gala Bingo during his time there, focussing particularly on the customer journey and development of the machine estate. Simon joined Praesepe in 2013 as a Business Development Manager focussing on Beacon and Cashino before moving to Head of Marketing in early 2017.

Outside of work Simon does love to visit the cinema and time off permitting exploring the world!