UK listed online gaming operator 888 Holdings plc has announced the surprise departure of chief executive Gigi Levy.
Levy’s departure comes at a crucial time for the company, which has been in protracted discussions with UK bookmaker Ladbrokes plc regarding a possible merger or acquisition, and pours doubt on the likelihood of a successful outcome to these discussions.
888 said in a statement Monday morning that Levy is stepping down from his current role to pursue “other interests”.
Levy, 39, has been with 888 since 2006 and took on the role of CEO in 2007, steering the company’s exit from the US market and its subsequent European growth.
Commenting on Levy’s departure, 888 chairman Richard Kilsby, said: “After a difficult first half of 2010, the Company has experienced 3 consecutive quarters of growth. Following very strong trading in Q1 2011, which has continued into Q2, Gigi has decided to step down, leaving the company well positioned for the future.
“The Board would like to thank Gigi for his contribution during his time as CEO. Since the UIGEA ruling changed the industry, Gigi has been central to positioning 888 as one of the world's most popular and leading online gaming companies.”
For the next 6 months, Levy will commit up to 50 per cent of his time to assist in the transition to a new CEO, the company said, adding that he will remain on the Board of 888 during that period and thereafter.
Levy’s decision to continue as a board member of 888 will have been influenced by the recently renegotiated earn out schedule for the acquisition of Wink Bingo, which may have also contributed to his decision to step down as chief executive.
888 entered into an amendment agreement with the Wink Bingo vendors in March to reschedule the earn out payment payable in May of this year. It also agreed not to declare or pay any dividends or make any material acquisitions or disposals prior to payment of the full earn out amount (£24.7m).
The agreement also states that Wink Bingo may require 888 to initiate a sale of the Wink Bingo business to facilitate repayment of the outstanding debt, if Levy ceases to be a member of the 888 board.
888’s Nominations Committee will now lead the search for a new CEO, with senior independent director Brian Mattingley being called in to work closely with management on all aspects of the business until a replacement CEO is found.