888 chief departs as Middle East VIP activities suspended amid investigation
The boss of gambling giant 888 has left the company as it also announced an internal investigation into its VIP services in certain regions.
Itai Pazner quit as chief executive after four years in the role, the company told shareholders on Monday morning.
It comes after the group’s share value dropped by more than 50% over the past year amid a slowdown in online gambling as the pandemic eased and investor caution over its takeover of William Hill’s European operation, which saw 888 take on significant debt.
Mr Pazner presided over the £1.95 billion acquisition of the William Hill business, which included around 1,500 betting shops.
Earlier this month, 888 said its finance boss Yariv Dafna would leave the business in March as the company posted a fall in revenues. The company added later on Monday morning that Mr Dafna will now stay on until the end of the year.
The group’s non-executive chair Lord Mendelsohn has assumed the position of executive chair on an interim basis while the group searches for a new chief.
The departure came as 888 also launched a probe into its VIP operations.
The firm said an initial internal review showed that “certain best practices have not been followed” in relation to anti-money laundering and “know-your-client” processes for its VIP customers in the Middle East.
It has therefore suspended VIP accounts in the region with immediate effect.
The company estimated that this affects less than 3% of group revenues, were the suspensions to remain in place.
Lord Mendelsohn, chairman of the company, said: “The board and I take the group’s compliance responsibilities incredibly seriously.
“When we were alerted to issues with some of 888’s VIP customers, the board took decisive actions.
“We will be uncompromising in our approach to compliance as we build a strong and sustainable business.”
Last year, 888 was struck with a £9.4 million fine by the UK’s Gambling Commission for social responsibility and money laundering failings.
Shares tumbled 25.5% lower to 76.7p on Monday morning.