William Hill appoint Philip Bowcock as chief executive
Philip Bowcock has become the permanent chief executive of William Hill having been described as the "outstanding candidate" for the role by chairman Gareth Davis.
Bowcock, who was chief financial officer before taking over the seat vacated by James Henderson on an interim basis last year, was the unanimous selection of the board, Davis said.
The news was not a shock, with many having expected Bowcock, who is a relative newcomer to the sector, to have been confirmed in the position last month when the bookmaker announced their final results for 2016.
Those results showed signs of recovery for Hills, who have endured a torrid year with profit warnings, a failed merger with Canadian gaming company Amaya and an unwelcome and unsuccessful takeover attempt from 888 and Rank.
Bowcock, whose basic salary will rise to £600,000 from £550,000, said he was "very proud" to be in the position.
He went on: "There's a group of very talented, passionate and committed people within William Hill who have made great strides over the last few months whereby we are in a position now where we are seeing growth, particularly in our online business.
"There is a lot to do but a lot has been done. This appointment doesn't change the direction of the company and we are going to continue to drive forward our strategy."
Cinemas and nightclubs
Although Bowcock spent seven years at Hilton Group as vice-president of finance at a time when the company owned Ladbrokes, his lack of experience in the gambling industry had been held up as a negative against his appointment.
He joined William Hill only in November 2015 from cinema operator Cineworld Group, having previously held roles at nightclub group Luminar, Barratt Developments and Tesco.
Bowcock said: "I think the important thing is I am surrounded by people who understand this industry and so they can help guide me along the way if there is anything I need to know specifically.
"But what we have been able to do over the last six to eight months is put some real focus around the areas we need to sort out within the business and make sure people understand the direction in which we are going."
A number of other names had been linked to the chief executive's job and Davis said the company had gone through "a very extensive and thorough process".
He went on: "I saw quite a few people from outside the business and indeed some outside the sector but I can say hand on heart that Philip was the outstanding candidate.
"Obviously it's helpful to be able to see how he performed in the eight months as interim – he got stronger and stronger."
He added: "It is good for me to be able to say that Philip's selection from the board's point of view was absolutely unanimous which is always a good place to be in."
Search for new chairman
Davis said he hoped the process to find a successor to Bowcock as chief financial officer would be completed shortly, after which Hills would look for his replacement as chairman.
"I am well into my last term now," Davis said. "I would say sometime after our forthcoming agm we will be starting the succession process for a new chairman to take the company forward.
"I would not anticipate being around at the time of the 2018 agm."
Analyst David Jennings of Davy said the news was not a great surprise.
He added: "While the board would probably have preferred to find a candidate with more gaming industry experience, the reality is that this search has gone on far too long.
"William Hill needed to provide certainty to its employees and the market and this appointment achieves both. As such, we think it is a positive development."
On Friday William Hill's share price closed up 2.70p at 272.30p.
William Hill in numbers
1934 Year William Hill founded
2,375 Number of betting shops in the UK
16,000 Employees in nine countries
2.2 million Number of active William Hill Online customers in 2016
£261.5m Operating profit in 2016
£1.6 billion Net revenue in 2016