The Business On... Gareth Davis, Chairman-elect, William Hill

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The Independent Online

Don't I know him?

You'll remember Mr Davis – who William Hill said yesterday would become its chairman on 1 September – from his lengthy tenure as chief executive of Imperial Tobacco. He ran the company – owner of Lambert & Butler – from 1996 until his retirement in May. Since then, he's been tipped for a high-profile chairmanship and this would appear to be it.



From one vice to another?

Careful. Bookmaking is a perfectly respectable business, you know. And Mr Davis has never been too keen on those who choose to vilify smokers – not least because he famously puts away 40-a-day himself. In his time at Imperial Tobacco he was a staunch defender of smokers' rights and always refused to accept that a clear linkage between smoking and lung cancer had been proven.



That must have irritated health campaigners?

It did indeed, but Mr Davis was always very well respected in the City. He pulled off a series of big deals for Imperial, raised the company's share of its existing markets and expanded aggressively into new territories. His final set of results at the company, unveiled last November, were headlined with a 52 per cent increase in profits to £945m.



His return to business was a safe bet then?

Very much so. Mr Davis himself made it clear that he wanted to serve as a chairman somewhere. If anything, the surprise is that he chose William Hill. Many had expected him to end up with a FTSE 100 company.



So this is a good signing for Hills?

Mr Davis's willingness to confront officialdom may come in handy. The bookmaker has just announced it is relocating a chunky part of its operation offshore, which hasn't gone down well with the Treasury or the horseracing industry.



Anything else we should know?

Look out for William Hill quoting better odds on Bolton Wanderers games from now on. Mr Davis is a passionate supporter of the Premier League side.

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