William Hill Aims for 'Digital Leadership', Replaces CEO

Sep 03

William Hill has recently announced that Philip Bowcock has stepped down as the company’s CEO. He has been replaced by their Chief Digital Officer, Ulrik Bengtsson.

Bengtsson will officially take over from Bowcock on September 30. He previously ran Swedish online gaming company Betsson, before joining William Hill in April of 2018. And even after stepping down, Bowcock will stay in the company until the end of the year to ensure a smooth transition.

The betting company has said that this change in management is part of their “strategy of becoming a digitally-led and internationally-diverse gambling company”. It may also be part of the company’s bid to recover from the hit that their high street business took as a result of curbs on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) earlier this year. It can be recalled that the company took a much deeper hit than their rivals, losing almost £1 billion.

The bookmaker has said they will release details of Bowcock’s payoff in due course. Bowcock joined the company as Chief Financial Officer in November of 2015, then became interim Chief Executive in July of 2016. He was finally named CEO in March of 2017. As last year’s CEO, Bowcock received a total package of £1 million from the company.

Bowcock is credited with having successfully steered the company through a tough period, which included a significant shift of the industry into digital gaming as well as a government crackdown on betting terminals. The latter hurdle left hundreds of their British stores unprofitable and led to the closure of 700 of their outlets, rendering around 4,500 of their employees jobless.

As new William Hill CEO, Bengtsson will receive a salary of £600,000, just like Bowcock did. He will also be receiving an annual bonus, long-term share bonuses, and other benefits. Additionally, the company will give him a pension allowance of 5% of his salary, which is a significant reduction from Bowcock’s pension allowance of 20%.

William Hill Chairman Roger Devlin said: “Having overseen the group’s digital operations for 18 months, [Bengtsson] knows the business well and is ideally suited to lead our next phase of growth. Ulrik has deep understanding in digital and has the international and sector experience we need to deliver on our strategy. His appointment will provide continuity, stability, and operational digital leadership as we deliver on the strategy we have set.”

Besides promoting their digital officer to CEO, William Hill has pushed hard in digital gaming to keep up with their rivals. As one of his last acts as CEO, Bowcock has also entered into a deal with El Dorado Resorts, Inc., an agreement that aims to expand the company’s reach into the recently-legalized US betting market.

Analyst Gavin Kelleher has this to say about the recent management change at William Hill: “The good thing about this move is instead of going through an external search that takes time and could mean uncertainty, they’ve got a guy on the bench.” Kelleher also said Bengtsson is a good choice, considering how he has managed to build Betsson into a strong online business in the five years that he was in charge.