William Hill's Topping extends stay as CEO

LONDON Thu May 9, 2013 7:51am EDT

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LONDON May 9 (Reuters) - William Hill, Britain's largest bookmaker, said on Thursday its chief executive Ralph Topping would lead the group until at least the end of 2015, having originally been expected to step down at the end of this year.

Topping, who has spent 43 years with the firm, took up the CEO role in 2008 and has led its push online and overseas, most recently spending over 800 million pounds ($1.25 billion) on deals to buy out its online partner Playtech and the Australian operations of rival gambling firm Sportingbet.

William Hill said in June 2011 that it would retain Topping until at least the end of 2013, but said on Thursday Topping wanted to continue in the role until at least the end of 2015.

"The board is delighted that Ralph will remain with the group for the coming years as we continue to manage the succession planning for the chief executive role," the firm said in a statement, adding that it was looking both internally and externally for a successor.

William Hill, whose shares have risen 74 percent in the last year, posted an 8 percent rise in first quarter operating profit in April, fuelled by a strong performance from its rapidly expanding online business.

Topping, who has held various roles at the bookmaker, was criticised by some shareholders last year after being handed a 1.2 million pounds retention bonus, with almost half of the group's investors voting against the pay deal.

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