Ralph Topping remains in the job, but sports book William Hill is seeking a new CEO

William Hill PLC on Monday was forced to clarify media reports that its chief executive will leave the British bookmaker by the end of the year, saying a planned timetable to replace Ralph Topping at the end of next year is still on track.

Topping is scheduled to retire at the end of 2015, but The Times and Daily Telegraph in London reported Monday that he may step down by year’s end. Topping, 62, who has spent over 40 years with the bookmaker, became CEO in 2008.

The Times reported the company has hired Zygos, an executive search firm, to find Topping’s replacement amid indications that leading internal candidates are not ready to take over the publicly traded company.

William Hill said it was looking at both internal and external candidates.

“Ralph Topping has previously indicated his intention to retire by the end of 2015,” William Hill said in a statement. “The board has an ongoing process to identify his successor from among both internal and external candidates.”

William Hill said its board instigated this process two years before Topping’s exit date to “give plenty of time to identify the right candidate … and to ensure a smooth transition.”

Topping joined William Hill as a part-time employee in Glasgow, Scotland. During his tenure as CEO, he helped propel the bookmaker into the FTSE 100 and oversaw a series of acquisitions.

William Hill is a leader in online gambling in Britain and has expanded into markets such as Nevada, Spain and Australia through acquisition.

Shares of William Hill lost 33 cents to close Monday at $5.80 on the FTSE 100 in London.

In June 2012, William Hill became the first British bookmaking company to be licensed in Nevada. Any successor to Topping must be approved by Nevada gambling regulators.

The company spent $49 million to acquire American Wagering Inc., operator of Leroy’s Horse and Sports Place franchise; Brandywine Bookmaking LLC, owner of Lucky’s sports books; and Sierra Development Co., which operated Cal Neva Satellite Race and Sports in Northern Nevada.

Today, those brands have been replaced by William Hill’s distinctive blue, yellow and white logo at some 100 locations statewide.

Based in Las Vegas, William Hill U.S. is run by CEO Joe Asher. It’s unknown if Asher is a candidate to replace Topping as CEO.

The bookmaker is the risk manager for the Delaware Lottery’s wagers on National Football League games using parlay cards. William Hill also operates a sports betting app, allowing customers to wager on events when they’re in Nevada.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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