Ladbrokes CEO to quit


After almost twenty years, Chris Bell is moving on

The major UK online and land gambling group Ladbrokes plc has announced that its 52-year-old CEO, Chris Bell is departing after almost 20 years with the company.

Bell, who joined Ladbrokes in 1991, will leave in the summer by mutual agreement, the company statement revealed, adding that Bell's successor, who will come from within the group, will be named Tuesday.

Industry observers speculated that the two internal candidates are likely to be John O’Reilly, managing director of the online gaming division, and Brian Wallace, finance director.

Bell became chief executive when Ladbrokes was split from the Hilton International hotels group in February 2006. Before that he was chief executive of Ladbrokes Worldwide. He joined the company in 1991 and became managing director in 1995. He previously worked for drinks company Allied Domecq.

The Times reported that Bell told journalists last October that the recession had had a worse impact on the business than he had expected.
Looking ahead to 2010 at the time, Bell said: "Unemployment, in my view, is going to have to peak before things start to get better."

Recent times have been hard for the gambling group. In October 2009 , it launched a GBP 275 million rights issue to help cut its GBP 962 million debt. Earlier in the year, Ladbrokes had responded to the tough trading environment by cutting its dividend and putting its loss-making Italian betting shops up for sale for an estimated GBP 50 million.

Last August, the group reported a 26 percent fall in first-half operating profits to GBP 98.6 million, from net revenues down 6.6 percent at GBP 504.4 million. The company, along with arch rival William Hill plc, also announced that it was moving its internet sports betting operations to Gibraltar, a move expected to save up to GBP 7 million net in tax and other costs and allow it to better compete with offshore Internet competitors.

This year the group, along with the industry will face the challenges of new moves by the British government to better regulate and tax online gambling firms operating from 'white listed' licensing jurisdictions outside the UK.

Bell is also vice-chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers, chairman of the Bookmakers’ Committee, a member of the Horserace Betting Levy Board and a non-executive director of Game Group, the computer games retailer. He earned GBP 2.04 million last year, including GBP 617 000 basic pay and a GBP 957 000 bonus.

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