Ladbrokes owner GVC places bet on Gibson as next chairman

Barry Gibson, who has been a director of William Hill, will be named next week as the chairman of GVC Holdings, Sky News learns.

                              Ladbrokes owner GVC places bet on Gibson as next chairman

The owner of Ladbrokes is turning to a former director of rival William Hill as it tries to repair relations with leading investors in the wake of a controversial share sale by its bosses.

Sky News has learnt that Barry Gibson, who has chaired Homeserve for almost a decade, is to be the next chairman of GVC Holdings.

His appointment is expected to be announced early next week.

Mr Gibson’s recruitment will end a seven-month search for a successor to Lee Feldman, who infuriated GVC shareholders in March when he and Kenny Alexander, the gambling group’s chief executive, sold £20m worth of shares.

That came soon after Mr Alexander had insisted to shareholders that GVC was “seriously undervalued”.

Mr Feldman’s departure as the company’s chairman is also overdue because, having served in the role since 2008, he is no longer deemed independent under corporate governance rules.

Revised guidelines saying that chairs lose their independence after a total of nine years on a listed company’s board have prompted a deluge of searches by British blue-chips.

That was underlined this week when Lloyds Banking Group, the UK’s biggest high street lender, said Lord Blackwell would step down in 2021 after nine years as a director.

Mr Gibson’s appointment is expected to reassure GVC investors given his array of experience on public company boards.

A former executive at BAA, the airports group, and Littlewoods, he has been a non-executive at National Express, Somerfield and SSP.

                              Ladbrokes owner GVC places bet on Gibson as next chairman

In the gaming sector, he has sat on the boards of digital entertainment, Playtech and William Hill.

Mr Gibson also chairs Sports Information Services Holdings, which works closely with the UK gambling industry.

His appointment will come at a time when the gaming sector continues to face significant financial and reputational challenges.

The biggest groups, including GVC, William Hill and Flutter Entertainment, which owns Paddy Power and Betfair, tried to head off growing criticism during the summer when they committed tens of millions of pounds of new funds to tackling problem gambling.

GVC, which also owns the Coral chain, has been affected, like its competitors, by the reduction in maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals – dubbed “the crack cocaine of gambling”.

The company was also hit by a near £6m fine from the Gambling Commission in July for “systemic failings” in its approach to problem gamblers.

Mr Gibson’s appointment as chairman, which could take place at or before GVC’s annual meeting next year, was led by Stephen Morana, the senior independent director.

He is unlikely to have to find a new chief executive for GVC in the short term.

Mr Alexander has insisted that he is committed to the company, and in August bought £5m of shares in a bid to demonstrate that.

The company has sought to expand its presence in the US, and has been tipped by some analysts as a possible counterbidder for Stars Group, which has agreed a £10bn merger with Flutter.

A City source said Mr Gibson was likely to step down as Homeserve’s chairman in the near future.

Shares in GVC closed on Friday at 897.4p, down 4% over the last year and giving the company a market value of £5.22bn.

GVC declined to comment this weekend.

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