By Tanishaa Nadkar
(Reuters) - Ladbrokes owner GVC announced on Thursday the departure of Chief Executive Officer Kenny Alexander, who transformed the company into one of the world's biggest gambling businesses during 13 years at the helm.
Shares in the company fell around 6% following the news that 51-year old Alexander will be replaced by Shay Segev. Segev has been the chief operating officer for four years.
The Scottish-born chartered accountant said he was quitting to spend more time with his family and that Segev had been in line to take over for some time.
"The share price reaction to news of a CEO departing says a lot about how the market viewed someone. As such, it seems like investors don't want Kenny Alexander to step down," AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said.
Alexander transformed GVC from a tiny small-cap into a 3.4 billion-pound blue chip company, employing some 25,000 staff.
He orchestrated GVC's 4 billion pound ($5.02 billion) takeover of bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral and its tie-up with casino operator MGM Resorts, pushing the company into the lucrative U.S. sports betting market.
GVC's shares have risen nearly nine-fold during his tenure, which has been marked by increased scrutiny from British regulators and strict restrictions on gambling.
The novel coronavirus has been the latest hit to bookmakers as the lockdown shut betting shops and cancelled sports events that contributed to nearly half of GVC's net gaming revenue last year.
Isle of Man-based GVC said the response from customers has been encouraging after its shops reopened last month and online sports activity is also near pre-coronavirus levels.
It said it expects first-half core earnings between 340 million pounds and 350 million pounds, which is above analyst Berenberg's expectations.
Alexander said he made his decision over the last four months. "I have given 13 years to GVC and I now want to give some time to my family," he said.
($1 = 0.7964 pounds)
(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Barbara Lewis)