Gaming Intelligence HOT 50 of 2017 – Big Shot CEOs. Celebrating the most talented, innovative and inspiring individuals in the online gaming industry.

Chief executive officer

It’s not been the easiest of years for Amaya with all the headlines surrounding former CEO David Baazov, but under Rafi Ashkenazi’s (pictured below) charge the company continues to be operationally sound, and its expansion into new product verticals has been an astounding success. PokerStars stands unrivalled in the poker market, so the next challenge is to turn its sportsbook and online casino into a similar beast. Whether Amaya gets new owners or not, Ashkenazi will have his hands full whatever happens this year, and he seems to be thriving on the challenge.

Chief executive officer
Rank Group

How William Hill could do with Henry Birch in its management team. As Rank CEO he has steadily grown the business into an increasingly formidable competitor, properly leveraging its land-based brands to build up its iGaming business. He is not afraid to take risks, shown by the decision to drop OpenBet in favour of Bede Gaming as its new platform provider. He has a particularly intriguing opportunity on his hands, and should he develop a genuinely omni-channel offering for Rank his star will rise higher. It’s no surprise that the operator is now seen as capable of doing major M&A deals. William Hill may not have been the best fit but there will certainly be other targets.

Chief executive officer

Andreas Meinrad featured in the Hot 50 2016 for stepping into a hot seat with a huge job to do. As one of our judges put it, the company was basically dead. The turnaround he has managed to effect is phenomenal. While BetVictor remains a private company and accurate figures are hard to come by, the whispers are that profit will top €85m this year. From flatlining to anything near that will be an achievement to make the whole industry sit up and take notice.

Chief executive officer

A Hot 50 winner for the third time, Itai Frieberger took over the hot seat at 888 in March 2016 after a spell as COO. He leads a company in rude health, despite a slightly misfiring M&A strategy which has seen the company miss out on acquiring and fail with an opportunistic bid for William Hill. It could be a big year for 888 in 2017 though, with results continuing to impress and backed up finally with a competitive sportsbook product. This year will be Frieberger’s 14th with 888, and it could be his most important yet.

Chief executive officer
Ladbrokes Coral

Jim Mullen is a Hot 50 winner for the second consecutive year, this time as CEO of three of the UK’s leading betting and gaming brands; Ladbrokes, Coral and Gala. The merger took longer than expected to be completed, so the onus is now on him to make it work. His extensive experience in the iGaming industry, first developed at William Hill and subsequently honed at Ladbrokes, should make Ladbrokes Coral a dominant force in the industry, but it won’t be easy. Paddy Power Betfair remains a serious rival and William Hill will surely get stronger. The pressure will be on Mullen to succeed.

Chief executive officer
Intertain Group

Andy McIver and his chairman Neil Goulden have undoubtedly been brought in as the safe pairs of hands needed to transform ‘the Frankenstein of bingo’ into a respectable London-listed 21st-century gambling company. McIver will have learned a great deal from his spell at post-UIGEA Sportingbet. It, too, was emerging from its Wild West period but it spluttered towards eventual breakup when William Hill and GVC teamed up to acquire what was left of it. McIver will rely on the crack teams of operators he has inherited while he uses his financial acumen to chart a course towards the UK market. With brands such as Jackpotjoy and Vera&John he has a great opportunity. Will he grab it?

Chief executive officer
Danske Spil

Susanne Mørch Koch doesn’t start her new role as CEO of Denmark’s former monopoly operator Danske Spil until 1 April, and she will have a tough gig in replacing veteran Hans Madsen who has been in charge of the company for the past 12 years. But her experience at Danske Statsbaner, Denmark’s leading train operator and the largest in Scandinavia, should put her in good stead. Her job will be made easier by the smooth progress made by the operator which has thrived despite the opening up of Denmark’s regulated iGaming market. Danske Spil remains the biggest operator in the market, and will benefit further from a new Scientific Games-powered iGaming platform expected later this year.

Chief executive officer
Scientific Games

Kevin Sheehan faces a tricky task in replacing Gavin Isaacs as Scientific Games CEO, but at least the focus of the business has shifted to reducing its debt rather than completing more M&A. He has already proved he can handle a large listed business, having grown Norwegian Cruise Line and led the business through the global recession. He’s a safe pair of hands. His new role is particularly important after Isaacs’ frequent cries that SG’s hefty debt undermined analysts’ valuations of the company. The market conditions are far easier than those he faced when beginning his previous role, so he may quickly become renowned as more than just Isaacs’ replacement.

Quick Links:

Gaming Intelligence Awards & Hot 50 of 2017
GIA Casino Operator of the Year: Amaya
GIA Bingo Operator of the Year: Jackpotjoy
GIA Poker Operator of the Year: Amaya
GIA Lottery Operator of the Year: British Columbia Lottery Corporation
GIA Social Casino Operator of the Year: Zynga Casino
GIA Sports Betting Operator of the Year: Sky Bet
GIA Socially Responsible Operator of the Year: Unibet
GIA Game of the Year: Cash Out Roulette, Be The House
GIA Marketing Campaign of the Year: 888Sport
GIA Bingo Supplier of the Year: Dragonfish
GIA Casino Supplier of the Year: NETENT
GIA Lottery Supplier of the Year: Scientific Games
GIA Marketing Services Provider of the Year: Optimove
GIA Poker Supplier of the Year: Relax Gaming
GIA Social Casino Supplier of the Year: Greentube
GIA Sports Betting Supplier of the Year: SBTech
GIA Innovation Award: Digital Sports Tech, Player Prop Bets
GI HOT 50 2017 – Founders & Pioneers
GI HOT 50 2017 – Big-Shot CEOs
GI HOT 50 2017 – The Next Generation of CEOs
GI HOT 50 2017 – Backstage Heroes
GI HOT 50 2017 – Superstar Suppliers


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