Former Ladbrokes media chief David Williams has been named as Rank Group’s first director of public affairs.
Williams, who will join Rank in December, will lead the company’s new in-house government relations and public affairs division. He will also take a leadership role in the public relations activity for the group and its various brands, which include Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo.
New Rank CEO John O’Reilly said the role would be “pivotal” as the company repositions itself through the transformational programme unveiled in August. By bolstering its public affairs team, the company will hope to avoid a repeat of the operational problems that led to a disastrous set of results for last year, including a failure to adapt to due diligence regulation changes which attracted the ire of O’Reilly when he presented the annual report.
“David brings a wealth of industry knowledge and expertise to the group and I am delighted that we have secured him to fulfil what will be a pivotal role as we reposition Rank for success,” O’Reilly said.
“His energy and passion for our industry, coupled with a track-record of delivering successful results will stand us in good stead for the regulatory challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”
Williams joins Rank from the racecourse pool-betting operation, Britbet, where he had been the director of communications since January. He left Ladbrokes in May 2017 after spending 13 years at the company, most recently as director of media.
Williams said: “Ensuring that our public affairs, social positioning and industry relations are compelling and in-tune with wider regulatory affairs has never been so significant.
“I’ve been struck by just how much attention John and the Rank board wish to put on this area of the business.”
Williams’ appointment comes just a week after Rank announced the arrival of new CFO William Floydd.
O’Reilly outlined a four-part plan of action to revive Rank’s fortunes in August after revealing that a series of operational errors led to a disastrous set of financial results for the year to the end of June.
He said that the failure to prepare for changes to due diligence regulations led to it being unable to allow many high-rolling customers to play during the year. This also led to problems with customer contact, with the company not able to communicate with many members for a period.
“Rank’s performance isn’t good enough,” said O’Reilly, in a call with investors after the company reported an 8% year-on-year drop in operating profit to £20.9m.
Just last month Rank Group was fined £500,000 (€572,500/$657,400) by the UK Gambling Commission for breaching problem gambling rules after a customer lost £1m in a single 24-hour period. The Gambling Commission said the fine would have been higher were it not for Rank’s self-reporting of its failures and transparency during the investigation.
In a trading update issued last month, Rank reported that group revenue dropped almost 5% year-on-year in the 16 weeks to October, mainly due to declines within its venue business, where revenue was down around 6%.