Adrian Marsh Pulls out of William Hill CFO Role

William Hill must now launch a new search for a Group Chief Financial Officer, following the news that Adrian Marsh has backed out of joining the company. Marsh was originally due to join the British gambling firm’s executive team during the first quarter of this year, but he has now decided to stay on with his current employer, DS Smith. Had the new appointment taken place, Marsh would have taken over from Ruth Prior.

Horses racing on grass.

The cancellation of sporting events, such as the Grand National, will have a profound impact on bookmakers like William Hill. ©Julia Joppien/Unsplash

Ruth Prior Stays On

Last month, William Hill appointed Adrian Marsh as its new CFO, taking over from Ruth Prior. Marsh was also due to become an Executive Director on the board. However, in another setback for the company, Marsh has now pulled out of the position.

“A few months ago it seemed like a good time to move on to a new challenge. However, these are very strange times and my loyalties are to my colleagues and stakeholders in DS Smith.”Adrian Marsh, Finance Director, DS Smith

The news comes as the industry faces difficult times, due the COVID-19 pandemic. Marsh explained that he reconsidered the job offer as a result of the “current unprecedented circumstances”. Now that most people must self-isolate and work from home, it is understandably a troublesome time to start a new job in a different sector.

“Whilst we note the reasons for Adrian’s decision, William Hill is focused on taking the necessary steps required in these unprecedented times to protect the interests of its stakeholders. We will provide an update in due course.”Roger Devlin, Chairman of the Board, William Hill

As Marsh will not be joining William Hill, he will stay on in his current role at DS Smith, where he is Group Finance Director. DS Smith is one of the world’s leading packaging businesses and has its headquarters in London. The company, which has been running since 1940, is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is also a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

Ruth Prior, whom Marsh was set to replace, will continue to act as CFO at William Hill while the search goes on. She joined the bookmaker in 2017 as a board member, and was also in the Group Executive team. She announced her intention to leave in January, and was due to move on to a role at Element Materials Technology.

William Hill Suspends Dividend

In a recent press release, William Hill provided details of how it could be impacted by COVID-19. Citing the closure of some US casinos and canceled sports events, the bookmaker predicts that it’s revenue and earnings in 2020 will be badly affected. In 2019, 53% of its revenue was generated through its sports books.

William Hill acknowledged that while it is difficult to make accurate predictions in such a rapidly changing situation, it had analyzed the impact of a range of possible outcomes. Factors including a month of UK retail closures and the cancellation of the Grand National could end up reducing the company’s EBITDA by £100m to £110m.

As a result, William Hill’s board has elected to suspend its dividend to shareholders until further notice. The gambling firm has also clarified that it does have enough liquidity to be able to cope with the potential losses predicted by the coronavirus outbreak. It has an “undrawn committed revolving credit facility of £425m”, which it is working on enhancing further.

While William Hill will struggle during the outbreak, it had previously enjoyed a strong retail performance. Trading was up before sports events were canceled, and when they resume it expects to recover fairly quickly. William Hill’s CEO, Ulrik Bengtsson remains hopeful, despite the current difficulties facing the company.

“These are truly unprecedented times but William Hill has been around for 86 years and over that time we have gained huge experience and understanding of our customers. People want to place sports bets and they will continue to do so where possible. In recent days we have seen betting on horses, greyhounds, international football and our well-established virtual sports.”

Joe Asher Donates Salary to Employees

The effects of COVID-19 are just the latest in a series of challenges facing the industry. Mounting pressure from campaigners, MPs and the regulator are leading to tighter restrictions. As the Gambling Commission seeks to make the industry a safer place for consumers, it is also making business more difficult for operators.

While most sports events have been canceled or at least postponed, a rise in online gambling is predicted as people move towards slots and other casino games. As a bookmaker, William Hill is undoubtedly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, in Britain as well as in America. However, it is a large enough company to be able to adapt its services to changing customer demand.

“We are taking action to maintain our operational capability, to secure and enhance our liquidity and to ensure we are in a strong position to resume full operations when the sporting calendar returns to normal. We have been quick to initiate our business continuity plans, which have been in place for some weeks, with our colleagues’ and customers’ welfare highest on the agenda. Large parts of the business continue to operate on a ‘business as usual’ basis.”Ulrik Bengtsson, CEO, William Hill

William Hill’s CEO in the US, Joe Asher, has taken it upon himself to help William Hill’s workforce weather these difficult times. He has donated his whole salary to a new employee fund, which will offer relief to workers who affected by the Coronavirus outbreak.

“I didn’t feel right about continuing to get paid while so many people were out of work. So, I just decided to donate all of my salary to the foundation and encourage everybody else in the company who’s still working to donate what they can.”

The William Hill Foundation offers financial aid to employees who are affected by layoffs and closures. While Asher is likely to be the largest contributor, other company employees are welcome to contribute as well. Earlier this month, the Alzheimer’s Society came under fire for partnering with the William Hill Foundation.

Michael Rumbolz, CEO of Everi Holdings has also committed to taking a massive pay cut. He has pledged to take no more salary for the remainder of 2020, and that the rest of the executive team will see a reduction in pay of 70%. While these might seem like extreme measures, it is hoped that they will help to minimize financial losses.

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