Camelot in quest for PR white knight

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Lottery operator Camelot, facing demands that it should lose its licence, is seeking a media guru. Kim Sengupta reports.

The last person to hold the post of communications director at Camelot, David Rigg, walked off with pounds 733,000 for three years' work, and scathing attacks for his "fat cat" earnings. Now the company is looking for a replacement, who will be offered a basic salary of around pounds 100,000.

A leading firm of City headhunters, Odgers International, has been instructed to seek out the person to rescue the battered image of Camelot. Odgers is believed to have already interviewed a number of candidates.

The person chosen has a hard job ahead of them. The Camelot consortium, which includes the controversial US company GTech, has faced criticism since it was awarded the licence by the former regulator, Peter Davis, in l994. This has become particularly trenchant since Virgin boss Richard Branson won his libel case against former Camelot director Guy Snowden, forcing Peter Davis to resign. Now there calls by MPs that Camelot should be divested of its licence, and the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, is said to be examining the contract.

Mr Branson won pounds 100,000 from Mr Snowden after a jury agreed that the GTech director had tried to bribe him. After the case, it emerged that Mr Rigg had discussed the bribery allegation in a memo with managing director Tim Holley.

Mr Rigg had already come under the spotlight as one of 10 Camelot directors who had pocketed a pounds 2.3m windfall, made up of pay hikes and performance bonuses, in May last year. He was the biggest winner as his pay packet rose from pounds 175,000 to pounds 333,000.

Mr Smith was said to be outraged by the bonanza, and it led to a confrontation between the Government and Camelot which only ended when the minister caved in and allowed the directors to keep the bonuses.

A spokeswoman for Camelot said: "We are just seeing who is around."