William Hill 2015 revenue slips as online director heads for the exits

william-hill-online-boss-exitUK-listed gambling operator William Hill suffered a slight revenue dip in 2015 and announced the departure of a top online executive.

In a trading update released on Thursday, Hills said group revenue slipped 1% to £1.59b in 2015, with most of the pain coming at the retail level and its Australian and non-core online markets. But full-year operating profit of £290m was in line with market expectations, despite paying £87m in additional UK taxes last year.

Total online revenue in 2015 was up 4% to £550.7m, with core markets – UK, Italy, Spain – up 11% to £483.7m. Non-core markets fell 27% to £67m. Hills’ retail revenue fell 2% to £889.5m, William Hill US was up 12% to £33.7m and the telephone wagering division rose 5% to £12.4m.

Hills’ Australian online betting division slipped 20% to £97.9m thanks to the ongoing restructuring under a single brand. But Q4 saw a 46% rise in active customers and new accounts were up 221%, leading to “single-digit” growth in betting handle during the month of December.

Hills CEO James Henderson (pictured) said the online business had experienced “some disruption” in implementing its Project Trafalgar revamp but the company was “rapidly addressing” these issues.

Among these disruptions was the October launch of Hills’ wonky betting app. On the ensuing analyst call, Henderson didn’t mince words: “When you have a rating of one-and-a-half stars, that is disappointing, there’s no getting away from that.”

Hills’ update included the announcement that its managing director of online, Andrew Lee, was leaving the company. Lee has been placed on ‘gardening leave’ aka being paid not to show up for work, ahead of his expected departure later this year. Hills has appointed innovation director Crispin Nieboer as Lee’s interim replacement.

Henderson declined to comment specifically on Lee’s departure, telling analysts only that he was “getting my own management team around me, it takes about 15 months, but it’s important for the next phase of our growth.”

Lee’s exit follows a virtual parade to the exits by Hills’ senior management in recent months, including director of gaming innovation James Curwen, sportsbook director Matt Warner, CMO Kristof Fahy and finance director Neil Cooper.

The latest Hills exec to trigger his ejection seat is CTO Finbarr Joy, who reportedly submitted his resignation last month. eGaming Review reported that Joy was expected to leave the company later this year and that Hills would not seek a replacement. Instead, newly appointed CIO Kevin O’Connor will oversee a team restructure.