Hot 50 2015 – The Next Generation5th February 2015 7:41 am GMT
KENNY ALEXANDER – CEO GVC Holdings
The sale of Sportingbet to William Hill and GVC Holdings may have been led by the former, but it feels as if Alexander’s business has been the main beneficiary. The company surpassed its full-year net gaming revenue forecasts 17 days before the end of 2014, and remains confident of continued success in 2015 after boosting its presence in Scandinavia through a joint venture with Betit. We may even see Alexander’s unwanted ‘prince of grey markets’ crown slip, with the company securing a UK online gambling licence, but yet-to-regulate territories will remain part of his strategy.
LUKE ALVAREZ – CEO Inspired Gaming
Luke Alvarez is the founder and CEO of Europe’s largest supplier of retail gaming machines and virtual sports products. Whether you call them fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the UK or video lottery terminals (VLTs) elsewhere, the machines have become hugely controversial in recent years. Alvarez is a smart and charismatic leader who can be trusted to guide his company through these choppy waters. He has internationalised the business over the past three years, more than quadrupling international sales through deals with the likes of the China Sports Lottery, and Sisal and Lottomatica in Italy. Alvarez has the vision and drive to lead the company into new products and new territories while continuing to expand its core business.
ULRIK BENGTSSON – CEO Betsson Malta
Since taking over as CEO of Betsson Malta in 2012, Ulrik Bengtsson has had a huge impact. He has recruited a talented team and rebuilt an ageing operation that had been losing market share to innovative new operators. Bengtsson brought all 650 staff under one roof and has overseen a period of strong, uninterrupted growth. He is a tough character who will not let standards drop. Bengtsson will build Betsson’s presence in the UK and Italy while maintaining the growth curve in the Nordic region. His steely determination suggests he is the perfect man to please his canny and demanding shareholders.
LEE FENTON – COO Gamesys
It can be argued that Lee Fenton and his colleagues have slightly taken their eye off the ball over the last six months as they concentrated on trying to find a buyer for the business, but the men at the top of the company continue to demand respect. Lee Fenton runs the business with such a sure hand that the judges demanded his inclusion in the Hot 50. Fenton does not take any prisoners but understands the value of brand and content with an acuity that few others can match. If he leaves post-sale, he will be sorely missed.
JOHN FITZGERALD – CEO Intertain
After being spun out of Amaya at the beginning of the year, Intertain now seems to be following in the footsteps of the mothership, which took an enlarged stake in the company after parting ways. Amaya’s acquisition of Rational has shown the industry that almost anything is possible, and created a buzz around Intertain that CEO John FitzGerald is helping to ferment. FitzGerald has acquired two companies with huge potential in the shape of Vera&John and Mandalay Media. He now has to fit these companies together while, no doubt, acquiring a few more.
THOMAS GRAF – CTO Novomatic
As chief technology officer of Austrian gaming behemoth Novomatic, Thomas Graf has a particularly tricky year ahead of him. The company embarked on something of an acquisition drive in 2014, snapping up businesses in the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, and Graf will be responsible for integrating all these businesses into a cohesive single unit. It has been difficult to gauge Novomatic’s strategy thus far, with subsidiaries seemingly moving in different directions, but with a push into the US on the horizon and regulation in UK and the Netherlands, the myriad systems will need to be working at full capacity.
ANDY HARRIS – COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Realistic Games
Realistic unquestionably makes excellent games and Andy Harris deserves a great deal of credit as the business brain working alongside stellar designer Andy Cattrell and IT director Jason Hopkins. Since Harris joined the company in 2012 it has become a much more visible supplier via deals with leading operators such as Paddy Power, William Hill and Ladbrokes.
JONNY HARTNETT – MANAGING DIRECTOR Paddy Power
Johnny Hartnett was appointed head of Paddy Power online after serving as director of operations since January 2014. He is on an upward curve at the operator. He is young, dynamic, commercially-minded and has an excellent track record. He was COO and executive director of the operator’s Australian operation Sportsbet, having served his apprenticeship as a sports trader at the same firm. He knows the company inside out and looks set to thrive under the stewardship of new boss Andy McCue.
ANDY HORNBY – GROUP COO Gala Coral
The fact that Andy Hornby has taken charge of Gala Coral’s merged interactive businesses makes it harder and harder to shift the suspicion that Hornby is being groomed to eventually succeed group CEO Carl Leaver. The company continues to explore the sale of its retail business. Online is becoming a vital and growing part of the business since its reinvigoration over the past two years. It will be up to Hornby to drive it on from here.
MICHAEL HAZEL – CEO RATIONAL GROUP Amaya
Mike Hazel is the last man standing from Rational Group’s senior old guard. The former CFO embodies the heart and soul of pre-Amaya PokerStars, and as such is a crucial figure in ensuring the culture of the company endures. His expected elevation to CEO is a huge vote of confidence from Amaya’s central management and a sign they will not mess with the formula that has made Rational the world’s best poker operator.
ANDREW LEE – MANAGING DIRECTOR William Hill Online
Andrew Lee has taken William Hill Online into sole-ownership with aplomb. Since acquiring Playtech’s share in the business, it has continued to grow at a strong rate. The company’s proprietary casino has more than held its own against Playtech’s. Lee has overseen the evolution of a mobile channel that goes from strength to strength in sports and gaming. His outstanding stewardship saw online revenue climb 18 per cent last year. With the new point of consumption tax in the UK, he will have his work cut out to build on that growth.
ANDY MCCUE – CEO Paddy Power
Patrick Kennedy has left Paddy Power after a decade with the operator, and few can deny his replacement, Andy McCue, has huge shoes to fill. McCue joined Paddy Power in 2006 and has an excellent knowledge of the company’s inner workings. Having spent the majority of his Paddy Power career focused on retail, his greatest challenge will be taking on the company’s successful online business, which has been the driver of so much growth. Paddy Power is almost unrecognisable from the company it was at the beginning of Kennedy’s term. McCue’s task will be to drive it to the next level.
BJÖRN KRANTZ – MANAGING DIRECTOR NORTH AMERICA Net Entertainment
Björn Krantz has helped power on Net Entertainment for years. He now faces his biggest challenge in taking the Swedish games pioneer into the North American market. His initial focus will be completing the licensing process in New Jersey and then he will turn his attention to other jurisdictions when the opportunity arises. The quality and success of Net Ent’s games are not in doubt, but Krantz’s toughest task will be negotiating the patent jungle in the US. The company has set a target of launching its products in the market during the second half of 2015. It’s a big ask, but Krantz is the man to crack it.
ANDREAS MEINRAD – CEO BetVictor
Andreas Meinrad joined BetVictor from bwin.party, where he was a trusted member of Norbert Teufelberger’s senior management team. Owner Michael Tabor recruited Meinrad to usher BetVictor into the post-Victor Chandler era. His challenge is to relaunch a brand that has been dominated by the personality of Chandler. Tabor has given Meinrad the funds to overhaul an operation that has under-performed beneath the latter-day stewardship of Chandler. Meinrad has the opportunity to make a big impact.
JENS VON BAHR & FREDRIK OSTERBERG – CO-FOUNDERS Evolution Gaming
The co-founders of the world’s leading live dealer casino games supplier continue to drive it to new heights. Together, Jens von Bahr and Fredrik Osterberg have built an incredible business. If chief executive Von Bahr is the strategic mastermind, then sales director Osterberg is the deal-doer extraordinaire, who continues to fight mighty rivals Playtech with impressive results. Evolution only touches regulated markets. As more countries regulate (especially in Asia and the US), you will see this talented and driven pair push even further ahead.
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