COO, bwin.party digital entertainment
When you meet Joachim Baca he is hugely impressive. Before joining bwin in 2004, Baca was in charge of new media business development at Red Bull and he brought that understanding of consumer branding to bwin. But more than that, he understands the operational infrastructure behind the brand. As such, he has been a vital member of the team that has integrated bwin and PartyGaming with remarkably little pain. This is no mean feat and it has been rewarded with a seat on the newlymerged company’s board. However, merging two of the largest operators in the business does not seem to be enough for Baca, who is also in charge of finding new revenue streams for bwin.party. He has the intellect and vision to carry this off with aplomb.
Head of PaddyPower.com, Paddy Power
Christopher Coyne has large shoes to step into, following the departure of his old boss Breon Corcoran for Betfair. But while Corcoran had overall responsibility for the hugely successful Paddy Power website, Coyne will also have had a big influence as head of eGaming. That position excluded sports betting but Coyne now has responsibility for the whole shebang. He has made all the channels very profitable and is thought of extremely highly internally – hence the promotion. Colleagues describe him as being at the very top of his game. He has a great team around him and has been bequeathed a good gig, but Coyne can be relied on to take PaddyPower.com onwards and upwards.
Head of sportsbook, William Hill Online
Jamie Hart left William Hill for Gala Coral but was so well regarded by CEO Ralph Topping that he was lured back for a second spell at the old English bookmaker. His return has coincided with the outstanding success of the William Hill Online (WHO) joint venture with Playtech but the success is no accident. Hart is in charge of customer experience at WHO and he understands what people want. While Playtech provides the software, Hart can take much of the credit for reinvigorating the product. The WHO sportsbook has performed fantastically during the first three quarters of 2011, with amounts staked up by 51 per cent, including growth of 61 per cent in in-play turnover and more than 250 per cent in mobile betting amounts staked. Those figures followed a 23 per cent rise in revenues at the half-year stage and an astonishing 600 per cent rise in mobile revenues. The technology behind WHO is good but it needs someone to implement it and they have the right person in the shape of Hart.
Founder and managing director, Gamesys
Noel Hayden is regularly lauded as one of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs. He sold his first online gaming venture, Internet Digital Media, for £6.85m in 1999 and used the cash to found Gamesys. His belief that bingo and softer gambling games would find a wider audience has proved spot on and Gamesys has emerged as one of the best. The Gamesys website Jackpotjoy has assumed market leadership in the UK with over two-million users. And the company’s white-label solutions have also taken the bingo sector by storm. Gamesys won the contract to provide the UK’s most popular newspaper The Sun and its sister publication the now-defunct News of the World with an online bingo product in 2008 and it has never looked back. A string of white label deals have followed. Gamesys and Jackpotjoy remain hugely innovative, a trait handed down by Hayden and his fellow founders, who remain very hands on. It is working with an increasingly diverse array of brands, including charities such as Comic Relief, where it launched its Feel Good Flutter. Caesars has apparently been sniffing around its supplier with a sack filled with £300m. Hayden’s creation would be worth every penny.
Morten Klein is the co-founder of AutomatGruppen. Klein’s vision was a daily draw lottery with the biggest jackpot in Europe and he made it a reality with EuroLotto.com, which has jackpots in excess of €25m. It was a bold move, the like of which Swedish market leaders such as Betsson and Unibet had not dreamed of. Its success urged Betsson offshoot Cherry to splurge €386.9m on acquiring AutomatGruppen in 2010. It was Cherry’s first move into online gaming and it has paid dividends and then some, with revenues rising 150 per cent in the space of a year. Klein has been retained at Cherry as a board member with daily involvement in business development. His flair for marketing is semi-legendary and he will be crucial to Cherry’s ongoing success.
Shay Segev has worked at Videobet and also at Playtech where he and fellow Hot 50 winner Shmuel Weiss have built the scale and capacity to make Playtech a market leader. Segev is not a true techie but his current work managing the Gala Coral project will showcase the next phase in Playtech’s development. It was a landmark deal for Playtech; convergence theory made flesh as Playtech provides the platform and products for the UK company’s broad range of landbased and online businesses. Segev’s impact is not limited to one megadeal though. He is COO across the Playtech software business and a director at subsidiaries Intelligent Gaming and Sciplay – set to figure prominently in the convergence of land-based and online gaming.
VP Poker, 888
888’s poker product has long been its weak spot. Some would say that is an understatement. No more. Its poker product chief Hili Shakked has revitalised the product to such an extent that the whole company is feeling a boost. Hili led a strategy shift in 888’s poker business that resulted in the implementation of its Poker 6 software as well as other innovations such as the PokerCam tables, which allow you to watch your opponent while playing. Poker 6 has been a successful testbed for a whole new back office system. The PokerCams, meanwhile, have increased the amount of time that players sit at the table. The latest available results are phenomenal. During Q3 2011 revenues from online poker soared 120 per cent to $18.1m and active poker customers rose 166 per cent to 307,000. 888 is back and Shakked certainly deserves a share of the credit.
As the former COO of Playtech, Shmuel Weiss has had a big impact on the operational development of Playtech and reorganised it along business unit lines but it is his role in taking Videobet forward that nails his place in the Hot 50. Weiss joined Videobet as CEO in 2004 when it was just a small development team. It is now the UK market leader for software, with over 60 per cent market share of VLTs in the country. It also provides the software to 100 per cent of Gala Coral’s and Ladbrokes’ machines. Videobet was the driver in securing a relationship with Scientific Games, which could bare fruit well beyond the already massively profitable relationship with SciGames subsidiary The Global Draw. Videobet looks set to become a significant global force in VLT technology in the next few years while Weiss continues to make his presence felt across Playtech.
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