William Hill, which employs more than 1,000 staff in Leeds, has picked an insider to succeed Ralph Topping, who is stepping down as chief executive this summer after 44 years with the bookmaker.
James Henderson has been with the group for 29 years and is currently operations director with oversight for the UK retail business, online and William Hill’s businesses in Australia and the United States.
He will take over as chief executive when Mr Topping, who has overseen a period of rapid growth for the company during his six years in charge, steps down at the end of this month.
William Hill, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, is the UK’s biggest bookmaker with 2,400 betting shops and an industry leading online operation.
Chairman Gareth Davis described Mr Henderson, who started with the company as a trainee manager, as a “natural bookie”.
He added: “He understands gambling, he understands how technical it has become and he understands all the channels.”
Mr Topping said: “I have enjoyed working with James for many years and am pleased to have appointed him to various important operational roles in that time.
“It is great to have seen him progress up through the business to the point of taking on the big job, the role of chief executive.
“As a ‘one company man’ I am naturally a big supporter of William Hill and its people, so I really wish James and the rest of our management team all the success in the world in continuing to take the company forward.”
The leadership change comes as the gambling sector faces huge financial pressure, with the Government tightening controls on betting shops, and increasing taxes on online gambling and high stakes gambling machines. The measures are expected to cost William Hill more than £80m when they come into force from early next year.
“There have been headwinds or regulatory pressures ever since bookmakers have been around,” Mr Henderson said. “We are very resilient and normally come out of these,”