Over The Hill, Itai Pazner Fired By 888 Holdings
As previously predicted in these pages, Itai Pazner has been fired as CEO of 888 Holdings.
Shares in the Gibraltar-based, London FTSE250-listed, gambling and iGaming giant have crashed by over 25 percent to 76.62 GBX (and counting) on the news.
Pazner, CEO since January, 2019, who received remuneration in excess of US$5 million from 888 last year (£4.03m/€4.59m), was nominally fired for anti-money laundering breaches and failures in the company’s Middle East VIP scheme, 888 intimated in a press statement released today (Monday, January 30).
“Itai Pazner is leaving his role with immediate effect”, the notice confirmed.
Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn, 888’s Non-executive Chair, meantime, has been appointed Interim Executive Chair until the board finds a permanent replacement for Pazner, who was with the company for over 20-years, holding a range of executive posts.
“On behalf of the board I would like to thank Itai for his significant contributions to the business over more than 20 years, including the last four as CEO,” said Lord Mendelsohn.
888 Holdings, which owns a number of top iGaming brands, among them: 888casino, 888poker, 888sport and Mr Green, has 14 offices around the world and employs over 12,000 people.
Founded in 1997, it had revenue of US$980.1 million (£791.34m/€899.67m) and net income of US$68.9 million in 2021 (£55.63m/€63.24m).
A Deal Too Far
While 888 is formally blaming its looming Middle East VIP scandal for Pazner’s demise, informed sources, confidential to iGamingFuture, say his ill-fated acquisition of Britain’s storied William Hill (International) brand is the principal cause for his corporate defenestration.
888 bought William Hill’s non-US assets, including 1,350 UK High Street bookies, from Caesars Entertainment for £1.95 billion in July last year (US$2.41bn/€2.21bn).
But in order to do so–the deal was effectively a reverse take-over–they had to borrow. And borrow big; burdening the company with £1.6 billion of additional debt (US$1.98bn/€1.81bn).
Around 65 percent of this debt burden is held at choking, or so-called “floating”, rates. And 888’s current debt ratio is a stonking 5.7 times earnings, leaving 888 “extremely” exposed.
“I am delighted to announce the completion of our transformational combination with William Hill,” Pazner chimed after the acquisition.
Prophetic words indeed.
For Itai Pazner–and perhaps for embattled 888 Holdings plc–it has, indeed, been quite a transformation.