A weird turn of events happened Thursday, when UK-based gaming operator William Hill announced the company would have to look for a new Chief Financial Officer. The person chosen for the job decided to remain put in his current role in the cardboard maker company DS Smith, due to the uncertainty in the economic environment caused by the coronavirus /Covid-19/ spread.
Industry Uncertainty The Decisive Factor
Earlier this year, William Hill announced the Finance Director of DS Smith, Adrian Marsh, was selected to join the company and replace long-serving CFO and Director, Ruth Prior, to help steer the company in its home market where further regulatory tightening was expected.
The recent snub, however, forces the gambling operator back to the recruitment and selection process, and Ruth Prior to remain as CFO, putting her desired move to the private equity sector by joining Element Materials Technology on hold, despite serving her notice period.
“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
Current Finance Director of DS Smith, Adrian Marsh, joined his current employer in September 2013, and has been serving as DS Smith’s group CFO ever since. In June 2019, he joined as Audit Chair the multinational energy services company John Wood Group.
2020 Revenue Updates To The Downside
Recently, major gaming operators in the UK such as William Hill, Flutter Entertainment and GVC, posted updates regarding their 2020 financial expectations after the virus outbreak. All three companies expect a hit on their EBITDA of £110 million – £150 million due to the cancellations of major sports leagues in the US and all top 5 European football leagues, and the temporary closure of betting shops across the country for a period of one month.
Companies warned further losses of up to £30 million per month can be expected for every additional month their retail estate is closed. Even the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paraolympic Games were postponed later on, something the operators did not account for in their estimates of the virus impact.
Initially, only William Hill decided to suspend the payment of dividend to its shareholders for 2020, but later on, Flutter Entertainment announced it will pay its 2019 dividend in shares only, while suspending the 2020payment due to the ongoing merger with Canadian-based The Stars Group /TSG/.
Additionally, bookmakers in the UK were already under pressure due to rising taxes, limit on stakes and regulatory push through hefty penalties for a safer gambling environment. Obviously, all these factors weighed in for DS’s Finance Director Adrian Marsh to remain with his current role.