William Hill boss leaves as 700 bookies closed

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William Hill has announced its chief executive is leaving as it shifts its focus to online and international markets.

The departure of Philip Bowcock comes after it said 700 betting shops would close because of the reduction of the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2.

Ulrik Bengtsson, chief digital officer, replaces him on 30 September.

Mr Bowcock said it had been an “intense period” within the industry.

He said the business, which he had run for four years, had experienced “significant structural and regulatory change”.

“After all the work the team has done, I believe the business is now well placed to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the US market, as well as continued growth in digital,” said Mr Bowcock, who had originally joined as finance director in November 2015.

The company has previously warned that government’s decision to cut the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 could knock its sales by £100m a year.

These gaming machines allow players to bet on the outcome of various simulated games and events, such as roulette, blackjack, bingo and horse races, sparking concerns that large sums can be lost quickly by customers.

Its plan to close around 700 shops could put 4,500 jobs at risk.

The company said Mr Bowcock’s departure was “part of William Hill’s succession planning and consistent with the group’s strategy of becoming a digitally-led and internationally diverse gambling company”.

Mr Bengtsson, who was recruited by Mr Bowcock in April 2018, said he saw a “great opportunity” to seek growth online and internationally.

He will have a £600,000 salary – in line with that received by Mr Bowcock – as well as bonuses while his pension contribution will be 5% of salary, rather than the 20% received by Mr Bowcock.