William Hill takes a punt on a new chief executive

Betting shops could do with a stroke of luck at the moment - so here's hoping new William Hill chief executive James Henderson is what it's looking for.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 16 Feb 2015

This month, William Hill dropped out of the FTSE 100 after just a year counting itself among the cream of the UK's largest companies. At the same time, 888 Holdings fell out of the FTSE 250 altogether.

So it hasn't been a great year for gambling chains, which is borne out in William Hill's first quarter results, posted in April, showing operating profit fell 14% in the 13 weeks to the end of April.

Now the gambling chain is staking its hopes on a new chief executive: James Henderson, who has been working for the company for almost 30 years.

Ralph Topping, William Hill's current CEO, was due to step down at the end of next year - but clearly, the call of retirement is strong, because the company has decided Henderson can take over the reins from August 1. As a 'good leaver', Topping will keep receiving his £650,000 salary for 12 months, though. Not bad.

Former UK operations director Henderson should be a safe pair of hands: although the company was expected to appoint an outsider, it said today his 'breadth of knowledge spans the whole group'. It's got a point: not only did he establish William Hill in the US, but until recently he was boss of the group in Australia.

'The group is in the best competitive shape I have ever known,' said Henderson in a statement. 'While we face challenges as an industry, there are also plenty of opportunities to keep strengthening William Hill.' Yes, but what are the odds on that?

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