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888 appoints former Superbet executive Wilkins as new CFO

| By Robert Fletcher
888 has announced the appointment of Sean Wilkins, formerly of Superbet and Tesco, as its new chief financial officer.
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Wilkins will assume the role with effect from 1 February 2024. He replaces Yariv Dafna, who announced in January he would be leaving the business

Dafna had been due to exit by 31 March but agreed to remain with 888 until the end of the year. He will now depart on 2 October, with chief strategy officer Vaughan Lewis becoming interim CFO until Wilkins joins.

A highly experienced executive, Wilkins is currently group CFO of Romanian omnichannel operator Superbet. Prior to this, he was group CFO at global sightseeing business Big Bus Tours.

Earlier in his career, Wilkins had a spell as CFO of Domino’s Pizza Group and spent more than four years working in senior finance positions with Tesco. In addition, Wilkins was CFO of the Asian division of global telco O2.

“Having worked in the regulated online betting and gaming industry over recent years, I have followed 888 closely,” Wilkins said. “Following its transformational acquisition of William Hill, the group has all the ingredients for long-term success: outstanding brands, technology and people. 

“The board has set out very clear plans to create significant shareholder value. I am really looking forward to being part of the leadership team to deliver these plans and achieve the group’s clear potential.”

888 executive chair Lord Mendelsohn added: “In addition to having an in-depth understanding of the betting and gaming industry, Sean brings a wealth of relevant experience gained in CFO roles at international businesses, where he has demonstrated a strong track record of value creation.”

Changing of the guard at 888

Wilkins’ appointment comes ahead of Per Widerström taking over as chief executive next month. Widerström was confirmed as CEO in July and will assume the role with effect from 16 October.

Widerström joins following eight years as CEO of Fortuna Entertainment Group. He has also worked for high profile operators such as Bwin.party and Gala Coral Interactive. 

Following his appointment, Mendelsohn returns to a non-executive position. Since the removal of Itai Pazner in January, Mendelsohn has ran the business as executive chair.

Mendelsohn says the addition of both Wilkins and Widerström means 888 now has in place an “outstanding” executive team. He also paid tribute to the outgoing Dafna, saying he has played an important role in the group’s recent growth.

“On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Yariv for his important contributions to the business in the last three years,” Widerström said. “This includes playing a crucial role in the completion of our transformational combination with William Hill and the successful integration of the businesses. He has also provided stability in the role of CFO over recent months while we searched for a permanent successor. 

“We wish him every success in his future endeavours.”

FS Gaming fails in bid to take charge

The formation of the new leadership team at 888 came against a background of uncertainty. FS Gaming, the investment vehicle backed by former Entain CEO Kenny Alexander, tried and failed to take charge of 888 earlier this year.

The group acquired a 6.75% stake in 888 in June. Soon after, a proposal emerged for former GVC chairman Lee Feldman to reprise the same role at 888. Alexander and former GVC director Stephen Morana would take over as CEO and CFO respectively.  

The proposal also would increase FS Gaming’s total stake in 888 beyond the 10% threshold to trigger a change of corporate control. This requires approval from the Gambling Commission.

However, the Commission raised concerns over an an ongoing HRMC investigation into GVC’s historic Turkish operations. This also included alleged misconduct by employees and third-party suppliers.

The HRMC probe prompted the Commission to launch a review of 888’s suitability to hold a licence. According to the regulator, it did so after FS Gaming failed to sufficiently address its questions on past conduct.

The 888 then-board unanimously agreed to terminate discussions with FS Gaming. It said the takeover bid would put the company’s GB licences “at immediate and significant risk”.

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