888 chief says decision to quit is not linked to US events

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The Independent Online

John Anderson, the chief executive of the online gambling group 888, announced yesterday he would stand down at the end of the year after unveiling a near-doubling in half-year profits.

Mr Anderson, 57, will be replaced by the chief operating officer, Gigi Levy, who has long been lined up for the role. Mr Anderson said it was "time to bring in some fresh eyes".

He decided to step down after six years with the business which he led through its stock market flotation in 2005, but will stay on as a non-executive director. The Scotsman is keen to pursue his property interests - before 888 he ran the property firm Burford Holdings where he led a management buyout in 2001, and remains its chairman. He previously worked for Ladbrokes.

The recent arrests in the US of two leading executives from London-listed internet sports betting companies have sent shockwaves through the industry. 888 stressed it was not involved in online sports betting, which is explicitly banned in the US. Other forms of internet gambling are a legally grey area, though 888 remains on the lookout for a European sportsbook.

Mr Anderson denied his departure was linked to the US events, saying: "If I was concerned about the US, I would not stay on the board." But he admitted no one in the company had plans to travel there. He mainly travels between his home in Tel Aviv, the company's headquarters in Gibraltar, and London.

888 pre-tax profits leapt to $48m (£25m) from $25.6m in the first half of the year. The group gets 52 per cent of its business from American punters and is trying to cut its dependence on the US further by expanding in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Asia. It signed two football sponsorship deals with Sevilla FC and Toulouse FC, in addition to sponsoring the World Snooker Championship and Middlesbrough FC.

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