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Still no new CEO on the horizon for William Hill

By Alex Hammond
The Financial Times has reported that embattled sports-betting giant William Hill has failed to convince any of its top targets that taking on the challenge of turning around its business would be a fruitful one.

Although William Hill has insisted no formal offer has been made to any candidates, a number of prominent industry figures have been named as having been approached for the role. GVC Holdings CEO Kenny Alexander and former Betfair COO Mark Brooker are two names mentioned. Brooker spurned Hills’ advances, and Alexander has opted to continue his work solidifying the Bwin.party merger.

Former CEO James Henderson left the operator in July, since when the search for a replacement has been conducted by William Hill Chairman Gareth Davis. The company’s flagging online growth compared to many of its rivals was the primary reason for Henderson being asked to step down.

Interim CEO Philip Bowcock has expressed some interest in remaining in the position for the long-term, but having only entered the gambling industry last November (Bowcock joined Hills as chief financial officer, having previously been finance director at Cineworld) there is a feeling that he has not been in the industry long enough to possess the experience required to turn around the struggling bookmaker’s fortunes.

Hills has seemingly rebuffed a number of merger opportunities recently, including from PokerStars owner Amaya and Rank Group/888 Holdings, one reason for this could be the lack of having a new CEO in place to conduct the negotiations. But with the Ladbrokes Coral merger having completed, joining similar industry ventures including Paddy Power Betfair, a merger of its own might be the only way to revive William Hill’s ailing fortunes.

In an example of corporate "chicken and egg", Hills may be waiting for a new CEO to join to company before it takes a closer look at the M&A market, but candidates may be wary of stating an interest in the job until the company's future in that area is clearer.

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