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JAMES HENDERSON is to step down as chief executive of bookmaker William Hill with immediate effect.

21 July 2016

JAMES HENDERSON is to step down as chief executive of bookmaker William Hill with immediate effect.

In an announcement made on Thursday, the bookmaker said Philip Bowcock, the company's chief financial officer, would take over as interim CEO while a replacement for Henderson was found.

Henderson succeeded Ralph Topping, who had been chief executive since 2008, as head of Britain's biggest bookmaker in 2014 and spent in total more than three decades with the firm before his departure.

However, since taking the reins in August 2014 Henderson has had to battle with a struggling online division and issued a profits warning earlier this year after "punter-friendly results" at the Cheltenham Festival and in European football.

The firm also revealed it has been hit by punters self excluding, locking around 2,500 customers out of their accounts per week.

Recent tie-ups between Paddy Power and Betfair and Coral's proposed merger with Ladbrokes had left Hills struggling to assert its old dominance, especially after bids for betting firms such as 888 failed.

'We wish him all the best'

In a statement released on Thursday, William Hill chairman Gareth Davis said: "James's career with William Hill has spanned over 30 years covering the retail, online and international businesses. We would like to thank him for his significant contribution and we wish him all the best for the future.

"Philip has a clear set of priorities as Interim CEO, principally the continued turnaround of the Online business. We will confirm a successor in the coming months." 

The statement added trading remained in line with previous guidance of an operating profit of between £260-280 million. Half-year results to June 28, 2016 are set to be unveiled on August 5.

Underperformance

Analysts pointed to the underperformance of Hills, particularly online, as the deciding factor in Henderson's departure.

Gavin Kelleher of Goodbody said: "Given the underperformance of William Hill over the last year, senior management change will not come as a surprise. The company remains in a difficult transition period."

Kelleher added the new CEO would likely be an external appointment with "online and international experience key", while Cenkos said an industry insider would be better placed to take on the role.

Simon French of Cenkos said: "We are not surprised by the news given the operational and financial underperformance in recent quarters. We expect an industry insider to be appointed."

News of Henderson's departure resulted in a spike in the William Hill share price to 284.9p at 8.30am. However, it has since fallen to 276.5p at 9am, below the opening price of 280.1p.

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