888 chief quits amid deal talks

THE CHIEF executive of online gaming site 888.com has quit, as protracted takeover talks with high street bookmaker Ladbrokes continue following five months of negotiations.

Gigi Levy, who has been in charge at 888.com since January 2007, is stepping down to “pursue other interests”, the firm said.

He will continue to commit half of his time over the next six months to help smooth a transition to a new chief executive, and will remain on the board following his departure.

A search for his successor is now underway, and in the meantime senior independent director Brian Mattingley will “work closely with management on all aspects of the business”, the firm said.

Levy first joined 888 as chief operating officer in 2006, having previously worked for US software provider Amdocs.

The online poker firm has been a takeover target for Ladbrokes since December, when the two began negotiations.

A spokesperson said Levy’s departure was unrelated to the takeover talks.

Yet no clear progress has yet been made on the deal, drawing speculation that the two sides have struggled to reach a price.

Ladbrokes had initially offered 70p per share for the business, valuing it at around £240m. Earlier this month, sources close to the negotiations said the bookmaker could up its offer.

888 reported a steep fall in 2010 profits earlier last month, hit by falling poker revenues and an increased marketing spend.

Its share price closed at 46p per share last week, giving it a market capitalisation of £158m.